- Vocational rehabilitation funds and funds from the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can be used to support the enrollment of students in postsecondary programs while still in high school, the U.S. Department of Education clarified Tuesday.
- These funds may also be used to support comprehensive transition programs, a type of postsecondary education program for individuals with intellectual disabilities, while students are still in high school.
- However, in order for IDEA funds to be used to support students with disabilities who have been accepted in dual enrollment programs, students' individualized education program (IEP) teams must first determine that the courses offered as part of a transition program are considered a necessary component of a secondary education.
"All students deserve the freedom to pursue an education that is challenging and allows them to reach their full potential," Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement.
Johnny Collett, the assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services added that allowing the use of federal funds to sponsor postsecondary programs is an effort to ensure that students with disabilities are "held to high expectations."
During her confirmation process, then-nominee DeVos said that she would be "very sensitive" to the needs of students with disabilities. However, as part of the Trump administration, she has repeatedly proposed cutting billions of dollars in funding for the department and recently proposed cutting millions of dollars in special education funding for the fiscal year 2020 budget.
While the Education Department's proposed budget included a 10% cut in federal funding, it has maintained appropriations for IDEA — the major source of federal funding for students with disabilities — at $13.2 billion.
Despite this, schools receive only 17% of the promised amount under the federal law. With IDEA serving 6,153,000 students, schools are qualified to receive $18.01 billion in federal funds. However, schools receive $7.5 billion, compared to the $102 billion they actually spend on students with disabilities on average per year, according to the National Education Association.
In response to the underfunding of IDEA, lawmakers this past March proposed bipartisan legislation in Congress that would fully fund the 1975 law.
"Because the federal government has failed to honor its IDEA funding promise, K-12 schools and school districts throughout America have been forced to pay more than their fair share," said Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), one of the authors of the legislation.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said current IDEA funding "forces school systems to make hard decisions about which children and services to shortchange." The push to fully fund IDEA has received support from various organizations, including AFT and AASA, The School Superintendents Association.