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E.D. Special-Education Report Found Incomplete by Senators

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Washington--The chairman and other members of the Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped have criticized the Education Department's 1983 annual report to the Congress on federally sponsored programs for handicapped children, contending that it fails to fulfill the requirements of the law.

In a letter to Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, the three Senators cited numerous examples in the report of noncompliance with statutory requirements and asked that the department submit the missing information by Sept. 30.

The letter was signed by Senators Lowell P. Weicker Jr., Republican of Connecticut and chairman of the subcommittee, Jennings Randolph, Democrat of West Virginia, and Robert Stafford, Republican of Vermont.

Secretary Bell, in responding to the letter, said that the department will review the Senators' concerns about the report.

Under P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, the department is required to prepare the annual report on the number of children served in each state, the states' progress in identifying and providing services for handicapped children, the quality of state programs, and recommendations for improving the federal law.

Decline in Quality

This year's report, which was due to be delivered to the Congress in January, was not sent until May, according to Sue Ellen Walbridge, a spokesman for Senator Stafford. She said the subcommittee members have noticed a decline in the quality of the last two annual reports prepared by the department.

The bulk of this year's report, according to the Senators, provided data but "little analysis and synthesis as compared with [a previous] annual report."

The Senators' letter complained that the section on special-education administration "lacked detail for understanding compliance with the law."

Furthermore, the letter noted, "procedural safeguards are not included" in the report, and "discretionary programs are described, but not anaylzed," making policy decisions difficult.

Also omitted from the report, according to the letter, are the number of handicapped children in each state who need services but are not receiving them; the numbers of handicapped children enrolled in public or private schools in each state who are receiving and not receiving a "free and appropriate public education" as specified by the law; and recommendations for changes in the provisions of the act.

The Senators said in their letter that the department's failure to include the Reagan Administration's proposed regulatory changes was "incomprehensible."

'Public Reaction'

"As you recall, these regulations generated significant controversy," the Senators wrote. "It is imperative for future policymaking that Congress be provided information regarding public reaction to these proposed regulations."

"Any response by the public of such magnitude as that generated by these regulations demands careful scrutiny by those charged with the responsibility of representing the best interest of the handicapped community," the letter continued.

The Senate, by unanimous consent, passed a bill that would change the department's evaluation and data-collection procedures by specifying the type of data to be collected, according to Ms. Walbridge. She said the bill, which also extends discretionary programs under P.L. 94-142 for three years, was drafted before the department submitted its annual report.

A similar bill has not been passed in the House.

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