The American Association for School Administrators said recommended funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Act in President Obama’s proposed fiscal-year 2014 budget does not account for the recent sequestration, one of many concerns voiced by the group in a report.
In all, Obama’s budget released on April 10 would fund the U.S. Department of Education at $71.2 billion, which reflects a $3.1 billion, or 4.5 percent, increase over fiscal-year 2012 levels. But AASA said that hardly keeps up with inflation, and, some programs actually saw a decrease because of level funding.
One of those funded at the fiscal 2012 level was IDEA. It remained at $11.58 billion despite a growing population of students with disabilities and demand for services, wrote Noelle Ellerson, AASA’s assistant dirctor of policy analysis and advocacy. She added that the federal share for IDEA fell to below 15 percent when accounting for sequestration. In comparison, the IDEA funding level was at 18.6 percent in fiscal 2005 and fell to 16.2 percent in fiscal 2012.
“The burden for paying for special education will continue to be shifted to local districts, forcing school districts to raise local taxes or cut general education programs,” Ellerson wrote, adding that AASA “strongly supports” Congressional efforts to reach the full-funding of IDEA at the 40-percent level as was originally required by the law.
Meanwhile, the Title I proposal was also the same as in 2012 at $14.52 billion.
Ellerson also wrote that the president’s budget mistakenly assumes that sequestration cuts will be reverted as a result of some kind of congressional deal on the nation’s deficit. Even if those cuts are rolled back, she said any deal would include a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, the latter likely also hitting education.
“In light of these cuts, it is likely that—even if adopted—these proposed funding increases would not be enough to offset the cuts,” she wrote. “Given this reality, AASA again reiterates deep concern for increased investments in competitive programs instead of investments in federal flagship formula programs (including Title I and IDEA).”
AASA did applaud the adminstration’s support of safe schools and the flexibility of states and local school districts to determine the best investments, which could include mental health, school climate and emergency management planning. But the association also recommended that Obama utilize programs like the Department of Justice’s Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) or the Department of Education’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students, formerly known as Safe and Drug-Free Schools, rather than “recreating the wheel.”
Some programs earmarked to receive increase funding were for early education, with Preschool for All receiving the largest bump at $1.3 billion, and Preschool Development Grants, at $750 million. Race to the Top ($451 million), High School Redesign ($300 million), STEM Innovation ($265 million), Promise Neighborhoods ($240 million), School Improvement Grants ($125 million) and 21st Century Community Learning Centers ($100 milllion) also receive sizable bumps in the nine figures.
Obama’s proposed budget also level funds the Rural Education Achievement Program at $66 million and reauthorizes the Secure and Rural Schools and Communities Program at $214 million.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Senate narrowly voted down federal gun legislation that would have expanded background checks for purchasers, but also would have increased funding of the School Shield Program that places armed and uniformed police officers in schools.