A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

To Assure the Free Appropriate Public Education of all Children with Disabilities - 1995

Federal Funding for Special Education

Historical Overview

The Federal presence in elementary and secondary education in general, and special education in particular, was negligible until the 1960s. In 1966, hearings before an ad hoc subcommittee of the House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee revealed that only about one-third of the 5. 5 million children and youth with disabilities in the country were being provided appropriate special education services. According to the committee report, the remaining two-thirds were either totally excluded from public schools or "sitting idly in regular classrooms awaiting the time when they were old enough to 'drop out.'" Federal programs directed at children with disabilities, the Committee reported, were "minimal, fractionated, uncoordinated, and frequently given a low priority in the education community" (House Report No. 72-611, June 26, 1975, p. 2).

As a result of these hearings, Congress added Title VI to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (P. L. 89-750) in 1966, establishing a two-year project grants program to assist the States in educating children and youth with disabilities. Allotments were based on the population of exceptional children age 3 through 21 in the State. The Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments of 1970 repealed Title VI as of July 1971 and created the Education of the Handicapped Act (EHA), P. L. 91-230. EHA consolidated a number of separate Federal grant programs related to children with disabilities under one statute. This new authority, the precursor of the current IDEA, was the first free-standing statute written expressly for children and youth with disabilities.

Part B of EHA provided a new formula grant program to replace the previous population-based grant. The maximum amount of the grant that a State could receive was equal to the number of children with disabilities age 3 through 21 receiving special education and related services times a specified percentage of the national average per pupil expenditure (APPE) in public elementary and secondary schools in the United States. See table 1.1 in Chapter 1 for a summary of Part B grants and APPE amounts since 1977.

The new formula was a significant change from the way funds had previously been distributed. Prior law based allocations (a) to States on the number of all children, i. e., population, ages 3 through 21 within a State, times $8.75 per child, and (b) within States on a discretionary project basis. The new system for distributing funds within States made allotments based on the number of students eligible for special education services. The new system's objectives were to allow funds to flow to areas with relatively higher rates of eligible students (and therefore greater need) and create an incentive to locate and serve those students.

The 1990 Amendments to EHA changed its name to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). To assist States in providing FAPE to children and youth with disabilities, IDEA authorizes three State formula grant programs and several discretionary grant programs.

The discretionary grant programs (Parts C through G of IDEA) have the objective of stimulating improvements in educational services for children with disabilities. Included are grant programs designed to promote recruitment and training of special education personnel, research and demonstration projects, development and dissemination of instructional materials and information to teachers and parents, and some direct services for children.

[Financing Services for Students with Disabilities] [Table of Contents] [Special Education Funding in the States]