WASHINGTON, D.C. [04/12/2019]—This week, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) continued to fight for strong investments in schools across the country by helping introduce the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, which would put the nation on the right path of funding special education and making sure every child has access to quality education.
“A high-quality education should be the basic right of every child, no matter where they live or how they learn,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “Every student deserves fair and equal access to the best education possible, and Congress has an obligation to fulfill its promise to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—This bill will ensure that we don’t let our students down.”
“Schools that work for all students, no matter where you live, is one of the most important investments we can make. They help keep our communities and our economy strong, but only if we make the important and necessary investments to support them,” said Sen. Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “When I hear from educators, administrators and parents, so often they express concern about how school budgets in Minnesota are being squeezed by the federal government not holding up its end of the bargain on funding. This legislation would make sure Congress follows through on our commitment to support schools and help all students reach their full potential.”
The Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act—led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)—would put Congress on a fiscally-responsible path to meet its obligation to fully fund Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on a mandatory basis over the next 10 years.
Title I, which gives assistance to America’s highest-need schools, is a critical tool to ensure that every child, no matter the zip code, has access to a quality education. However, it has been deeply underfunded, shortchanging students living in poverty. Similarly, IDEA calls on the federal government to fund 40 percent of the cost of special education, but Congress does not fully funded the law. 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.
In addition to Sens. Klobuchar, Smith, and Van Hollen, the Senate legislation is supported by Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
Representative Susie Lee (D-Nev.) introduced the House companion bill, and that legislation is supported by Reps. Nydia Velasquez (D-N.Y.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.), David Trone (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Eleanor Norton (D-D.C.), Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), James McGovern (D-Mass.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).
This legislation has strong support from education and advocacy organizations across the country.
Sen. Klobuchar is dedicated to reducing the education achievement gap in Minnesota and across the U.S. To ensure that all families have access to the opportunities they need to succeed, she supported a new federal education law that requires each state to develop a plan that sets targets to close these gaps. Minnesota’s plan, which received federal approval in January of 2018, includes specific initiatives to provide for equal educational opportunities for all students, including students living in poverty, students of color, American Indian students, students learning English, and students with disabilities. Klobuchar also supported a $275 million increase in Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grants to states—passed in March of 2018—to help students with disabilities receive the services they need to achieve their educational goals and to begin reducing the burden on school districts that have had to redirect resources from their general education budgets to cover the shortfall in education funding for those with disabilities.
As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Smith believes that a strong public education system is one of the most important investments we can make, because it empowers and creates opportunity—allowing people to reach their full potential, support their families with good-paying jobs, and become well-informed and engaged citizens. Sen. Smith is also committed to addressing the opportunity gaps that prevent too many students from reaching their full potential. She believes that means ensuring that every student—from LGBTQ youth, to immigrant Minnesotans, to those struggling with a challenging home life or mental health issues—has the support they need to succeed. Furthermore, Sen. Smith understands that outside the classroom our kids are facing many barriers and she strongly supports improving access to high-quality childcare, transportation, affordable housing and taking action to reduce poverty.