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Van Hollen introduces bill to fund federal mandates for high poverty schools and students with special needs

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen introduced legislation earlier this week which would fully fund two federal education mandates that help students with special needs and high poverty schools.

For years states have complained that Congress passed laws requiring school districts to provide additional services to some students — often the most expensive to educate — but has not provided the full funding for them.

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“I see this as an investment that will produce substantial returns not just to the students but to the country by expanding people’s economic opportunities,” he said.

Van Hollen has introduced the legislation every year since he was elected to the Senate in 2016, but it has never passed. Rep. Susie Lee, a Democrat representing Nevada, will introduce the bill, called the Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teachers (PACT) Act, in the House.

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“What is different now is that we have picked up a huge amount of momentum,” he said. In addition to support in the Senate, President Joe Biden has supported tripling funding for Title I, the law requiring more spending on low income students, Van Hollen said. The legislation calls for additional federal funding to be phased in over a decade.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, known as IDEA, requires additional support for students with disabilities. The federal government was supposed to provide 40% of the cost of special education, but currently only funds 13.8%, according to the National Education Association.

If the Van Hollen legislation were approved, Maryland would receive an additional $328.5 million for IDEA and additional $436 million each year by the time it is fully phased in, significantly boosting education funding in the state.

Hogan’s proposed budget for state funding for education is about $7 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

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