We applaud President Biden and Congress for their rapid introduction and passage of the historic American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, directs much-needed funding to schools to help them meet the challenges of COVID-19. While we were happy to see the final Act explicitly direct some funding to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, we also know that those additional dollars are only a small part of what is needed to fund the education of students with disabilities adequately. We hope to see Congress and the Administration allocate more robust funding for the education of students with disabilities in future appropriations.
In the meantime, we urge federal leadership to send a clear message to schools and districts that they can and should dedicate some of the over $120 billion in general education funding relief provided in the Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief (ESSER) Fund to support the education of students with disabilities, particularly those with higher needs, who have been severely impacted by instructional loss. With a creative and strategic approach, schools and districts can use the funds to accelerate learning. Potential areas of investment include additional personnel and assistive technology, trauma-informed practices that will reduce the risk of exclusionary discipline practices, and expansion of eligibility wherever possible so that students who are aging out of services will be able to recoup the lost year.