The stimulus package passed by Congress in February and signed by President Barack Obama provided a massive infusion of money to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: $12.2 billion to be exact.
According to an April 1, 2009, news release from the Education Department, "The IDEA funds under (the stimulus) will provide an unprecedented opportunity for states, (local educational agencies), and early intervention service providers to implement innovative strategies to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youths with disabilities while stimulating the economy."
The stimulus is a one-time infusion of money, though, available for only two or three years, and the department's release says efforts will be made to "thoughtfully" invest the money to minimize the "funding cliff" when the stimulus money goes away.
While special education advocates hailed the stimulus funds for the IDEA, some are also wary of the government's long-term commitment.
Mary Watson, president of the Board of Directors of the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, testifying before a House education committee in March, expressed gratitude for the stimulus funds but said that while that money "will help states in the short term, our members and their local special education colleagues remain concerned about the long-term funding picture for IDEA."
Her fears were not allayed when the Obama administration proposed a 2010 budget that did not include any increase for the IDEA, but rather would keep the funding level at $12.57 billion.
In a June 1, 2009, story in the
Early Childhood Report,
Watson said, "We were certainly appreciative of the recovery funds, but we were hoping that there would be some consideration for 2010-2011 to start building for full funding for IDEA."
The same story notes that some legislators, at least, want to ensure that funding doesn't revert to current levels once the stimulus money runs out.
"I don't want to go back," said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over education. "Once we've reached this plateau, I don't want to go back down."
Certainly, the stimulus money fulfilled Obama's promise in the short-term, and perhaps there is a plan to increase the yearly budgeted funding once the stimulus runs its course. But that still remains to be seen in future years budgets, and so we'll move this one to In the Works.