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Opinion: Full Funding of IDEA — Time to Prioritize “All” Children and Secure Their Future

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Full Funding Act is a legislative proposal that seeks to address a long-standing issue in the American education system – the underfunding of services for students with educational disabilities. Since the inception of IDEA (1975) the federal government has pledged to match 40% of the average per-student cost for every child eligible under the Act. However, this promise has fallen short, with funding often hovering around 15% (less than 13% in 2023).

The first step is recertification of IDEA. This is required every five years under mandate. Over the past half-century, the United States Congress has proclaimed to have undertaken a significant commitment to safeguard the civil rights of children with educational disabilities through IDEA. Despite the groundbreaking nature of this legislation and the profound impact it has had on millions of students and their families, a persistent challenge has been the full funding of the mandate. Congress has certified IDEA only twice (1997 and 2004 ). In December 2015, IDEA was amended to include ESSA- it focuses on academics through a diversity, equity and inclusion lens. This was not a recertification. Sadly, Congress fails to fulfill its promise- instead continually reneging on providing life-changing funding for students who qualify.

The IDEA Full Funding Act aims to correct this shortfall, ensuring that students with disabilities receive the support and resources they need, regardless of where they live. Ensuring equal access to a well-rounded, high-quality public education for students with disabilities is not just a moral obligation; it’s an investment in the future of our nation. Children with educational disabilities face unique challenges, and providing them with the necessary accommodations, specialized instruction, and support services can significantly improve their educational outcomes. This, in turn, prepares them for successful futures, contributing to a more inclusive and diverse workforce. By fully funding IDEA, Congress would be taking a significant step towards leveling the educational playing field, demonstrating a commitment to all students’ rights to an equitable education.

Moreover, fulfilling the funding pledge of the IDEA Full Funding Act would send a powerful message about our country’s values. It would affirm that we believe in the potential of every child, regardless of disability. It would also strengthen our education system as a whole, as schools would have the resources needed to support all students effectively. In a time when educational disparities are increasingly under the spotlight, fully funding IDEA is one concrete action Congress can take to address inequities and ensure that no child’s educational opportunities are limited by their zip code or their abilities. In doing so, we not only do right by our children with disabilities but also fortify the foundation of our nation’s future.