No Harm No Foul? No Way …

The IDEA Part B Grants to States federal funding for FY 2011 dodged a bullet last week. When the final “Continuing Resolution (CR)” was hammered out in the U.S. Congress (the one that prevented the dreaded government shutdown), IDEA funding remained mainly in tact – providing essentially the same level of funding for FY 2011 as FY 2010 – $11.5 billion (a slight  reduction of $23 million resulting from a .2% across-the-board cut)*. So, should we be grateful for not being slashed, despite the fact that the initial proposal (H.R. 1, which we reported in an earlier blog post) contained a reduction of $557.7 million for IDEA grants to states? Remember, we dodged that bullet only by the good graces of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R, Washington 5th), who offered an amendment to restore the IDEA funding cut. And, the final amount for FY 2011 still leaves a IDEA “funding gap” the size of Texas – the difference between what is promised in IDEA (called “full funding”, explained in this blog post) and what is actually appropriated by Congress (see chart below).

IDEA appropriations chart

Source: New America Foundation

UP NEXT: the debate over the FY 2012 budget, when, as one member of Congress put it, “we’ll be playing with real bullets.” The federal budget process goes something like this:

  • The President submits a proposed budget to Congress. That happened back in February. The proposed budget requests $200 million more for federal funding of the IDEA – a meager increase in the face of a funding shortfall that measures some $15 billion.
  • The Budget Committees of the House and the Senate release a budget resolution. Once complete, the budget resolutions go to the House and Senate floors, where they can be amended (by a majority vote). A House-Senate conference then resolves any differences, and a conference report is passed by both houses.
  • The Appropriations Committees of the House and the Senate divvy up the amount specified in the Budget Resolution to produce Appropriations bills laying out the funding across agencies.

Technically, all of this is suppose to happen by the time the fiscal year begins on October 1, 2011. If not, more CRs will be required to keep the government up and running.

What does all of this mean for supporters of IDEA federal funding to help local school districts provide special education and related services to students with disabilities? If the President’s budget request is the high-water mark for IDEA funding in FY 2012 – which it is likely to be – than the funding gap will persist. An estimated amount of the funding gap for each state (based on the FY 2010 level of Federal funding) – appears below.

IDEA funding gap by state

*A listing of all education programs impacted by the final FY 2011 CR is available here.

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