Federal News Roundup
The U.S. Supreme Court last week agreed to consider a New York case that many experts in special-education law consider crucial in defining an "appropriate education" for handicapped students.
The Hendrick Hudson Central School District contends that it is not obligated under federal law to provide a sign-language interpreter for Amy Rowley, a deaf fourth-grader who reportedly performs at the top of her regular class. School officials say they were complying with the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in providing a hearing aid, therapy, and tutoring for the child.
But a federal appellate court has ruled that the system must provide an interpreter in order to comply with the law. The Department of Justice has agreed with that order and has asked the Court to uphold it.
The Court also agreed to take three cases which question whether church-related schools are subject to federal unemployment-tax laws.
Federal regulations governing the new block-grants program, which were scheduled for publication in the Federal Register in preliminary form on Nov. 16, probably never will be published, according to an official of the Department of Education.
A. Neal Shedd, director of the department's division of regulations management, said last week that in lieu of regulations, the department may simply publish guidelines--in a question-and-answer format--for state and local officials who must manage the program.
The question-and-answer guidelines are likely to be similar to those handed out by department officials to participants in regional block-grants briefings last month, he said. (See Education Week, Oct. 19.)
If that format is approved by Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, the guidelines are likely to be published by the November deadline, he said. In addition, Mr. Shedd said, "we may also publish a document that will make edgar [Education Department General Administrative Regulations] not applicable" to the block-grants program.
The first phase of the Department of Education's sweeping review and reform of regulations--in which virtual all of the more than 200 education regulations may be changed--was announced last week in the Federal Register.
Publication of the list of 68 regulations the department proposes to amend or rewrite--known as the "regulatory agenda"--is required by an executive order governing the Reagan Administration's large-scale deregulation process.
The announcement's stated purpose is "to encourage more effective public participation in the regulatory process," and department officials say they have informally solicited comments on many of the regulations for several months.
The affected education programs include research grants administered by the National Institute of Education; school-desegregation programs, school dress codes, education of the handicapped, impact aid, and migrant education.
New regulations governing parts of these programs are scheduled to be published, in proposed or final form, between this month and next April.
The child-labor laws that bar 14- and 15-year olds from working in warehouses, some areas of restaurant kitchens, and communications and public utilities industries may also be revised next year, although Department of Labor officials say that it is too soon to predict what changes might be made.
Officials will also review the rules that govern the number of hours per week that young persons may work in restaurants. Currently, younger teenagers may work a maximum of three hours per day during the school week, with a total of no more than 18 hours per week. The child-labor regulations were last reviewed in 1961.
Jean Tufts, the Education Department's acting assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services since last spring, received final Senate confirmation to that post late last month.
The Senate vote on Ms. Tufts, the last department official to be confirmed, had been held up by Lowell P. Weicker, Republican of Connecticut, who said he was concerned that Ms. Tufts would support Reagan Administration attempts to repeal the Education for All Handicapped Children Act.
According to the Senator, Ms. Tufts had supported Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell's proposal last March to repeal the law and to consolidate education programs for the handicapped, along with Title I programs for disadvantaged students, in a block-grants package.
In a private meeting, however, Ms. Tufts assured Senator Weicker that she would oppose future attempts to repeal the law, according to an assistant to the Senator.
As president of the National School Boards Association last year, Ms. Tufts testified before the Congress in support of the 1975 law.
The social-issues agenda of Senate conservatives--which observers have predicted would not be brought to the Senate floor until next year--last week moved a step closer to debate.
Three measures, all sponsored by Jesse A. Helms, Republican of North Carolina, were placed on the Senate calendar on Monday. One would prohibit federal courts from ordering busing. Another would permit voluntary prayer in public schools. And the third would make abortion illegal by declaring that human life begins at conception. The bills could be brought up at any time, at the discretion of the Senate majority leader.
Another anti-busing bill, sponsored by Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, was reported to the Judiciary Committee by the Subcommittee on the Constitution, of which Mr. Hatch is chairman. That bill would forbid the busing of students for racial balance and would permit court challenges to previously issued desegregation orders.
The Hatch bill is likely to receive approval from the full committee. Among those voting in favor of the subcommittee report was Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.