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Senators Hassan and Shaheen Help Lead Effort to Fully Fund Special Education

WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen helped reintroduce the IDEA Full Funding Act, bicameral legislation to finally ensure Congress' commitment to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In 1975, Congress passed the IDEA to ensure that every child with a disability has access to educational opportunity. This law was a historic step forward, but since its passage Congress has failed to provide the funding promised under this bill.        


According to the National Education Association, the IDEA shortfall last year nationwide was $23.58 billion. Under full funding, New Hampshire alone would have received $143.8 million – a gap of $92.2 million.


"I got my start in public service because I wanted to make sure that we build a more inclusive society for people like my son, Ben. The IDEA Act was a commitment to ensure that students with disabilities have the same educational opportunities as their peers, but for too long we have fallen short of providing this promised funding - that must change,” said Senator Hassan. “Building an inclusive society is an ongoing effort, and there is much more work that still needs to be done to make sure that we are living up to our country’s values of independence and self-determination for all Americans.”


“Students with disabilities deserve equal access to quality education – that is a fundamental obligation. Congress’s failure to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a grave disservice to schools and families across the nation, and it requires our immediate attention,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m proud to join this effort to ensure Congress finally meets its promise to fully fund IDEA and ensure every student across New Hampshire and the nation has the educational opportunities they deserve.”


Under the 1975 IDEA legislation, the federal government committed to pay 40 percent of the average per pupil expenditure for special education. However, that pledge has never been met, and current funding is at just 15.7 percent. The IDEA Full Funding Act would require regular increases in IDEA spending to finally meet our commitment to America's children and schools. Text of the IDEA Full Funding Act can be found here.


Senators Hassan and Shaheen have been leaders in Congress in working to ensure that individuals who experience disabilities receive the support that they need to be fully included in our society. Senator Hassan successfully secured nearly $3 billion in dedicated federal funding to support students with disabilities in the American Rescue Plan. Senators Hassan and Shaheen had previously pushed for funding specific to students with disabilities, and the American Rescue Plan is the first COVID-19 package to include this type of dedicated funding. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Shaheen leads the annual letter to the committee calling for robust funding of the IDEA. Former President Trump also signed into law legislation that Senator Hassan introduced to make certain types of hearing aids available over the counter, as well as Senator Hassan’s bipartisan legislation to expand access to government services and information by requiring that all new federal websites are mobile-friendly.