The American Rescue Plan Act signed by President Biden at the end of last week includes almost $130 billion in education funding. The vast majority of that money will be distributed to school districts based on the Title I formula. This amounts to an average of $2,521 per student in Illinois, though districts with more disadvantaged students will receive more while other districts will receive less. Some of the money will also go to states to use for learning recovery grants, summer enrichment programs, and after-school programs. Of particular importance to special education directors and practitioners is that $3 billion dollars are allocated for IDEA funding. That amount includes $2.58 billion for Part B grants, $200 million for special education preschool grants, and $250 million for Part C grants for infants and toddlers. This money is in addition to the $12.9 billion in state grants for special education in the regular federal budget this year.
We previously highlighted that one Biden’s goals is to reach full IDEA funding, meaning 40% funding provided by the federal government. We considered the likelihood of reaching this goal imminently was small given the demands of the pandemic. And while the current boost to IDEA funding is far short of full funding, the additional allocation is a welcome recognition of the particular challenges faced by students with disabilities during the pandemic and the extra efforts and resources that will be needed to support them moving forward. Two additional considerations should be noted. First, the ARPA funds are a one-time allocation; additional IDEA funds are not guaranteed for subsequent years. And second, maintenance of effort rules remain in effect, so the additional funds must supplement, not supplant, local and state funding. Accordingly, funds are likely to be spent on current interventions like professional development, additional technology, and supplemental programming to address learning disruptions – as opposed to long-term staffing increases or programmatic investments.
Although neither of the prior COVID relief bills included money specifically for IDEA, the injection of IDEA funds in a stimulus package is not without precedent. Indeed, in 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included significantly more IDEA funding: $11.3 billion under Part B, $400 million under Part B Preschool Grants, and $500 million under Part C Grants for Infants and Families. How did your district use the additional funds in 2009? What was the impact? What is your district’s plan for the new IDEA funds? We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below, share your thoughts on Twitter or Linked In, or send us an email.