IDEA Funding Gaps by State: FY 2020 (School Year 2020-21)

Federal funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) falls woefully short of the amount promised by Congress when the IDEA was first enacted. In FY 2020 the Federal government provided just $12.764 billion to states to help offset the additional costs of providing special education and related services to the 7.3 million students with disabilities (ages 3-21) nationwide.

This Federal contribution was just 13.2% of the amount promised by Congress, also known as “full funding,” resulting in a funding shortfall of $23.580 billion. This shortfall must be made up by states and local school districts. As the chart below indicates, this is the lowest percentage of Federal share since 2000.

What does this mean for states? The document below, prepared by the National Education Association, provides the IDEA funding gap by state based on a full funding estimate. Download it here (PDF). See Note below regarding these calculations.

NOTE: The full funding estimate, and, therefore, the funding gap, is based on the requirement in IDEA regarding the maximum grant amount that a state can receive in any given year.

The maximum amount that any State may receive in any single fiscal year is calculated by multiplying the number of children with disabilities ages 3 through 21 served during the 2004-2005 academic year in that State by 40 percent of the annual per pupil expenditure, adjusted by the rate of annual change in the sum of 85 percent of the children aged 3 through 21 for whom that State ensures FAPE and 15 percent of the children living in poverty. In 2004-2005 a total of 6,723,000 children ages 3-21 were served under IDEA. The full funding estimate in the table above is calculated using 6,740,000 children being served since there has been little change in student population and a decline in the poverty rate. (The data used in the calculation lags by about two years.)

Meanwhile, the growth in the number of students being served under the IDEA in the past several years has far exceeded the rate of annual change used to calculate the full funding estimate. Between 2011–12 and 2018–19, the number of students (ages 3-21) served increased from 6.4 million to 7.1 million and the percentage served increased from 13 percent of total public school enrollment to 14 percent of total public school enrollment. The most recent data shows another significant increase, with 7.3 million students being served (ages 3-21). This is an increase of 148,000 additional students between 2018 and 2019.

If the full funding estimate were to be based on the current number of students being served, the funding gap would be significantly higher.


Resources on IDEA funding:
Congressional Research Service: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Funding: A Primer (Updated August29, 2019)

National Council on Disability: Broken Promises: The Underfunding of IDEA, 2018 

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