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Panel Hears Proposed Changes In Education of Handicapped

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Washington--A House panel conducting reauthorization hearings on the federal law governing education of the handicapped last week heard a slew of recommendations from state directors and researchers on how that law can better serve students.

The Education of the Handicapped Act, which will expire on Sept. 30, 1986, is reauthorized every three years, with the exception of Part B, P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. P.L. 94-142, which provided about $1.13 billion in state grants last year, is permanently authorized.

Parts C and D includes discretionary grants for early-childhood, transitional, and postsecondary services, and personnel development.

The discretionary grants mandated under those sections provided about $155 million last year in assistance to state and local education agencies, other public agencies, private nonprofit organizations, and colleges and universities.

Programs Working

Witnesses told the House Subcommittee on Select Education that programs developed under those discretionary grants to serve young handicapped children are working.

Brian McNulty, excecutive director of special education in the Colorado Department of Education, said a comprehensive statewide study found that early-intervention programs actually decreased the cost of helping a handicapped child--even after factoring in the cost of the preschool special-education programs.

"If forced to choose a single time in which to provide intervention and support to a handicapped child and their family, I believe that the data supports that that time should be as early on in a child's life as possible," he said.

However, Mr. McNulty said the current $22.5 million allocated for early-childhood discretionary programs should be shifted to focus on dissemination and training rather than development of new models.

Echoing the concerns of others who testified, he said that few new models have been developed, and that "we have instead continued to fund many variations on a theme."

Other Subjects

Other recommendations discussed at the hearing, which also served as an oversight hearing on some provisions of P.L. 94-142, were:

Whether the Congress should consider raising the cap on administrative set-asides to small states under P.L. 94-142 from $300,000 to $450,000. The law now calls for an administrative set-aside of $300,000 or 5 percent of a state's entitlement, whichever is greater.

Whether the Congress should reconsider P.L. 94-142's provisions concerning due-process hearings. S. James Rosenfeld, managing editor of the Education for the Handicapped Law Report, said that, among other things, the Congress might want to consider shifting from a two-tier to one-tier system of due-process hearings, which he called more effective and cost-efficient.--at

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