New Bill Proposes Actually Funding IDEA + Updated Mask Mandate Gives PWD an Out

While we continue to closely follow changes in vaccine distribution and school closure plans here in L.A. County, two national updates involving special education funding and mask exceptions have been announced, and they’re important for our community to know about.

A young Black student lobbies with educators at Capitol Hill, holding a sign that reads "We Choose Education Equity."
A young Black student lobbies with educators at Capitol Hill, holding a sign that reads "We Choose Education Equity."

Right now, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is only funded at 13.8% of the cost of special education, despite the fact that it’s mandated to be funded at 40% of that cost. Two senators have reintroduced a bill that will increase Title I funding over a 10-year period, resulting in IDEA being fully funded in the next 10 years. The bill, which is called the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, was reintroduced by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Representative Susie Lee (D-NV). Sen. Van Hollen has stated that his goal under the Biden administration is to prioritize education funding, and PACT has been endorsed by 30 education, civil rights, and disability rights organizations including The Arc, the Council for Exceptional Children, National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), the National Disability Rights Network, and the Council of Administrators of Special Education.

Sen. Van Hollen’s office reports that Biden’s administration has already expressed support for increasing Title I funding, and Keep Our PACT would nearly triple that goal. Because of its mandatory 10-year glide path to a fully funded Title I and IDEA, the bill would ensure that education and special education is prioritized in the federal budget.

In other good news for kids with disabilities, the CDC’s new mask mandate for U.S. travelers went into effect on February 1st, requiring travelers and commuters on all forms of public transportation (trains, buses, airplanes, and ride-shares) to wear a mask. However, children younger than 2 years old and any person with a disability who cannot safely wear facial coverings are exempt. If you and/or your child are wearing masks, you are allowed to remove it for “brief periods of time” in order to eat, drink, and take medication.

We’ll keep you posted on the exciting IDEA and special education funding news, as well as mask mandate news and disability exceptions. Hopefully, these developments signal that we are heading down a healthier, more supported, and more optimistic path.

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