Federal News Update
The Education Department announced last Wednesday that by the end of last week it would have mailed approximately $150 million in special Chapter I funds to states.
The special allocation of funds for the education of disadvantaged children was ordered by the Congress when it passed a supplemental appropriations bill in September. The Congress approved the allocation in order to help solve a dispute that began when Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell decided to base this year's Chapter I allocations on the basis of 1970 Census Bureau poverty statistics rather than those for 1980.
Eleven states and Puerto Rico, where the number of impoverished people increased over the past decade, sued Mr. Bell for making that decision, claiming that it would result in their loss of million of dollars in aid.
Attorneys representing those states in federal court said that they would withdraw their lawsuit if the special appropriation was passed.
P. Alistair MacKinnon, coordinator of federal education legislation for the New York state education department, said that receipt of the special payments "would solve 99 percent of the problem."
Mr. MacKinnon said that to his department's understanding, the legislation prevents states from using any of the special appropriation to cover state administrative costs, a situation that displeases the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Mr. Bell.
He said the matter would probably come up during a hearing regarding the case, Ambach v. Bell, that is scheduled to be heard Oct. 22 in federal district court in Washington.
Handicapped students who believe their rights under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act have been violated may sue for monetary damages, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed last week. In upholding a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last February, the Court also held that students may not sue under the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act.
The handicapped-children law, P.L. 94-142, requires schools to provide a free, appropriate education for handicapped children. Section 504 of the rehabilitation law prohibits discrimination against handicapped persons in federally funded programs.
The case, Special School District of St. Louis v. Miener, involved a student who sued the St. Louis special-education school district, seeking $524,000 because she was educated in a state hospital rather than in the school district's special-education program.
Both the school district and the parents of the student had sought Supreme Court review. The district asked the Court to rule against providing for monetary damages; the parents asked for permission to seek damages under both laws.
The case, which has never been decided on its merits, is being returned to lower court for trial.