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Policy Post: Show Me the Money Part II

February 23, 2011
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Last week we talked about the President’s proposed budget which included $200 million dollar increase to Special Education funding. This week we’ll talk about where the real conversation begins because according to our Constitution it’s Congress that has the ultimate power over the purse strings. It started off pretty dramatically when the House of Representatives considered a budget that called for a $557.7 million cut to IDEA (the federal funding for special education). Instead of staying relatively flat compared to past years, the federal share of special needs education would have taken a dip and programs across the country would have felt a significant pinch.

An amendment was then proposed by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers that kept the funding the same as the previous year. You’ll see her make the amendment on the House floor in this video I’ve embedded. It gives you an interesting glimpse of the lawmaker’s perspective on Special Education.

The amendment passed 249 to 179, restoring IDEA to it’s 2010 levels but the debate will continue. The amendment included cuts to other education funding like school improvement grants and teacher quality grants. The CEC argues that the proposed budget still impacts special education given that 60 percent of all special education students spend approximately 80 percent of their time in a general education classroom. We’re a long way off from a final budget and there will certainly be more developments.

Before I wrap up though, in taking a look at all the back and forth this week, I noticed that Representative McMorris Rodgers has a child with Down Syndrome. It’s too easy to view those in Congress as disconnected from what they discuss and too hard to remember that for some these issues are deeply relevant to them in very personal ways.

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