WASHINGTON, D.C. [02/17/21]—U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) are once again pressing for increased investment in special education and high-need schools by helping reintroduce the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act. This legislation—led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)—would put Congress on a fiscally-responsible path to fully fund special education services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Title I on a mandatory basis.
“When we invest in education, we’re investing in the next generation of Minnesotans,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “It is critical to ensure that our state receives full federal education funding — anything less shortchanges Minnesota’s students. I’ll continue working to secure the special education and high-needs schools resources necessary to meet our students’ needs.”
“We need to address funding inequities that limit students from reaching their full potential,” said Sen. Smith. “Ensuring that the federal government upholds its promise to fund special education and high-needs schools is essential. Minnesota has long known that when the federal government fails to uphold its promises, it shortchanges our schools as they struggle to make up that cost elsewhere.”
IDEA works to ensure that all children living with disabilities receive free and appropriate public education. Under the 1975 IDEA, the federal government promised to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education, but Congress has never met this requirement. Due to this funding gap, Minnesota was shortchanged $427 million in federal IDEA funding in 2017-2018. And according to Minnesota Education Department data, the difference between the costs and funding that districts have to make up in Minnesota was $724 million in 2019 and could grow to $858 million by 2023.
Similarly, Title I funding provided under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 provides assistance to America’s highest-need schools to ensure that every child, no matter the zip code, has access to a quality public education. Unfortunately, Title I is also severely underfunded. According to the National Education Association, the Title I formula was underfunded in Fiscal Year 2019 by $29 billion.
In addition to Sens. Klobuchar, Smith and Van Hollen, the PACT Act is supported by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).