U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced bicameral legislation to support educational programs for low-income students and students with disabilities. The Keep Our Promise to America’s Children and Teacher’s (PACT) Act would put Congress on a fiscally-responsible path to provide mandatory funding for Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). School closures and remote learning during the pandemic have already impeded educational progress for millions of students, especially those in need of additional support. Now more than ever, lower income students and students with disabilities are at risk of falling even further behind as the pandemic has drained resources for cash-strapped schools and districts, and reduced access to valuable educational support programs. The Keep Our PACT Act would mandate funding of key programs that support students in lower-income school districts and students with disabilities, reduce inequities in the education system, and ensure all students receive a quality education. The bill was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and in the House by U.S. Representative Susie Lee (D-NV).
“The pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our schools and made the learning gap even harder to overcome for students in need. We must prioritize ensuring all children have access to high-quality education, regardless of their zip code” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is critical that Congress finally make good on our promise to underserved children, parents, and educators across New York. I have been fighting to support our schools throughout this crisis and I will continue working with my colleagues, and the new administration, on this investment in our future.”
The Keep Our PACT Act would create a 10-year mandatory plan to fully fund both Title I and IDEA, ensuring that education is a priority in the federal budget. Title I gives assistance to America’s highest-need schools and is a critical tool to ensure that every child, no matter the zip code, has access to a quality education. However, it has been deeply underfunded, shortchanging our most vulnerable students living in poverty. According to the National Education Association (NEA), the Title I funding gap for school year 2019-2020 was over $29 billion. Similarly, IDEA calls on the federal government to fund 40% of the cost of special education, but Congress has never fully funded the law. According to the NEA, IDEA state grants are currently funded at just 13.8% – the lowest percentage since 2000.