Special Education Grants to States

In 1975, Congress passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, P.L. 101-476) to ensure that all children with disabilities would receive a free, appropriate public education. With this law, Congress committed to funding up to 40% of the Average Per Pupil Expenditure (APPE) in public elementary and secondary education for every student receiving special education services. The 40% full funding target has led to some confusion about congressional intent. Many people believe that Congress committed to funding 40% of total special education expenditures. In fact, Congress committed to funding 40% of the national APPE multiplied by the number of children in special education.

FFIS's analysis of special education grants to states found that Congress has never appropriated sufficient funds to reach the 40% threshold. For example, in fiscal year (FY) 2014, it appropriated $11.2 billion for states; full funding would be $34.7 billion.