Frequently Asked Questions
IDEA and the Recovery Act
Q1. What types of education
programs receive funding from the Recovery Act?
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5)
provides $787 billion in federal spending focused on
addressing the nation’s economic difficulties. Of that
amount, $115 billion is designated for education related
While almost half ($53.6
billion) of the education funds in the Recovery Act are
allotted to a fund called the State Fiscal
Stabilization Fund (SFSF), several education
programs also receive significant funding. These
$12.2 billion for the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
These special education funds are distributed as
$13 billion for Education
for the Disadvantaged (including Title I of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known
as No Child Left Behind).
The nation’s largest single federal investment in
schooling, Title I serves 12.5 million students enrolled
in both public and private schools. The majority of
those served (65 percent) are in grades 1 through 6.
$930 million for education
The Institute for Education Sciences received $250
million while $680 million goes for Rehabilitation
Services and Disability Research.
This graphic provides a detailed look at all of the
education funding in the Recovery Act. (link to the
graphic in the EdWeek slice in a popup window if
Q2. Are the IDEA funds
provided in the Recovery Act in addition to the regular
annual federal appropriations these programs receive
Yes, the Recovery Act funds provide an additional
one-time appropriation for IDEA
programs. The Omnibus Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-8)
provides federal funds for FY09 for IDEA as follows:
The Recovery Act funds are
considered part of the FY09 federal appropriation. All
IDEA Recovery Act funds will be distributed to local
school districts. However, unlike the FY09 annual
appropriation, the IDEA Recovery Act funds do not
increase the amount that states would otherwise be able
to reserve for state administration and state level
activities. All IDEA Recovery Act funds will be
distributed to local school districts.
Q3. How will IDEA Recovery
Act funds be distributed to local school districts?
A3. The IDEA Recovery Act funds are distributed to states using the funding formula required by the IDEA. States, in turn, distribute the funds to local school districts based on a formula in IDEA. The U.S. Department of Education has published a chart showing the distribution of FY08, Recovery Act and FY09 funds to each state for all education programs. Information on IDEA Part B grants and special education population can be found in the State IDEA Info section.
Q4. When will states and
local school districts receive the IDEA Recovery act
The IDEA Recovery Act funds are being distributed as
April 1, 2009:
The U.S. Department of Education released 50% of the
IDEA Recovery Act funds. Specifically, these amounts
released by IDEA program were:
States are expected to make
these funds available to its local school districts by
the end of April 2009.
October 1, 2009:
The U.S. Department of Education is scheduled to release
the balance of all IDEA Recovery Act funds. The balance
of the funds by program will be:
Q5. How long to local
school districts have to spend the IDEA Recovery Act
IDEA Recovery Act funds must be obligated by September
30, 2011. The U.S. Department of Education has
encouraged districts to spend the bulk of the funds
during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years, with
any remaining funds spent during the 2010-2011 school
Q6. Where do I find the
amount my local school district will receive in IDEA
Recovery Act funds?
The amount of IDEA Recovery Act funds that each state
will distribute to its local school districts should be
posted on the state department of education websites.
You can find your
state’s education website here.
Q7. How can the IDEA
Recovery Act funds be spent?
The allowable uses for these funds are the same as they
always are for IDEA funds. The U.S. Department of
Education has stated that the IDEA Recovery Act funds
“will provide an
unprecedented opportunity for states, LEAs, and EIS
programs to implement innovative strategies to improve
outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with
disabilities while stimulating the economy.”
However, the U.S. Department
of Education has also cautioned that these funds
represent a one-time allocation. As such, funds should
be used for investments that can be sustained after
Recovery Act funding expires. Some recommended use of
IDEA Recovery Act funds are:
Q8. Should IDEA Recovery
Act funds be used to avert teacher layoffs or restore
local funding levels that would otherwise be reduced due
to the current economic crisis and state and local
No. Funds for these purposes are provided to local
school districts through the State Fiscal Stabilization
Fund (SFSF). This fund is distributed through the
Governors of each state. Governors must use
approximately 81% of their state SFSF allocation to
support elementary, secondary and post secondary
education, and, as applicable, early childhood education
programs and services. The overall purpose of the SFSF
is to restore funding to education programs that may
have been cut because of the current economic crisis and
state budget shortfalls.
Using IDEA Recovery Act
funds for these purposes could likely result in a
violation of the IDEA’s “supplement not supplant”
provision. The “supplement not supplant” provision
requires that local school districts maintain their
local level of expenditures on special education
services and only use IDEA federal funds to supplement
the local expenditures.
Any suspected inappropriate use
of IDEA Recovery Act funds should be reported to the
state department of education and the Inspector General
at the U.S. Department of Education. Contact information
for the Inspector General’s office is
Q9. Can IDEA Recovery Act
funds be used for purposes other than activities to
support special education services to eligible students?
The IDEA Recovery Act funds are subject to all
provisions in current IDEA federal law and regulations.
Those provisions provide some ways that local school
districts can use a portion of IDEA federal funds (up to
15%) to provide services for students not eligible for
special education – called Coordinated Early Intervening
While use of up to 15% of
IDEA federal Part B funds for CEIS is optional for most
local districts, some districts are required to
use this option because they have been found to
have an overrepresentation of minority or ethnic
students in special education identification, placement,
or disciplinary actions. In such cases, the local
district must use all of the CEIS funds and must devote
most but not all of the CEIS funds to serve children in
the over identified group or groups.
Additionally, under certain
conditions, local school districts are allowed to reduce
the amount spent on special education by up to 50% of an
increase in federal or state and federal funds from one
year to the next. The freed-up funds must be used for
activities authorized under the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act (ESEA).
Since all IDEA Recovery Act
funds are considered FY09 appropriations, this means
that the increase in federal funds from FY08 to FY09 for
most local districts is more than double, allowing local
districts to reduce the local expenditure by roughly
half of the amount of the IDEA Recovery Act funds. If
local districts elect to reduce local expenditures by
this amount, the new lower amount becomes the level of
expenditure required to meet its maintenance of effort
States must prohibit local
districts from reduce its local expenditures by any
In addition, local districts
that are required to use 15 percent of its IDEA Part B
federal funds on Coordinated Early Intervening Services
(CEIS) as described above may not reduce their local
expenditures by any amount.
Q10. Where can I find
information on a local school district’s determination
required by the IDEA monitoring system and its
designation as having an over representation of students
from minority or ethnic groups?
Information about your local school district’s
determination (one of these four ratings: “Meets
Requirements,” "Needs assistance," "Needs Intervention"
or "Needs Substantial Intervention”) must be posted on
your state’s department of education website.
Information regarding a designation of over
representation (also called “disproportionality”) should
also be available. You can find your
state’s education website
In addition, your local
school district office should be able to provide answers
to these questions. If you are unable to find the
determination and disproportionality information,
contact your state department of education and request
that the information be provided to you.
Q11. Are IDEA Recovery Act
funds subject to different accountability measures than
the regular IDEA federal appropriations?
Yes. The Recovery Act mandates strict reporting of the
use of all funds. Local districts will be required to
submit quarterly reports that detail all revenue and