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New York City Agrees To Expand Its Bilingual Special-Ed. Faculty

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The New York City Board of Education has agreed to expand substantially its bilingual special-education staff under an agreement ending a long-running class action.

Under the settlement, which will cost an estimated $88.5 million over the next three years, the board must hire 350 new bilingual teachers and more than 600 other bilingual evaluators, psychologists, and social workers during that period. Several hundred other monolingual staff members will also be added to the special-education division.

The settlement was approved last month by U.S. District Judge Eugene Nickerson, who has presided over the case since a suit was filed in 1979 on behalf of limited-English-speaking Hispanic students who needed special education. The suit sought several changes in the district's special-education system, including expanded programs and more timely evaluations and student placements.

The only plaintiff named was a child of Puerto Rican descent, identified as Jose P., who was deaf and had cerebral palsy. According to the suit, the boy had sought placement in special education but was barred from school because officials could not evaluate his handicap. Several Puerto Rican advocacy groups also joined the suit.

To meet the hiring needs, the board will establish a three-year, $10.5-million fund to recruit teachers and clinicians. Some of the money will be used to set up a scholarship and loan-forgiveness program.

Recruitment will be aimed primarily at Spanish-speaking teachers and staff members, who are most needed, said Robert Terte, a spokesman for the board. Those proficient in other languages will also be sought, he said, especially speakers of Cantonese, Mandarin Chinese, and Haitian Creole.

The settlement also requires the board to complete student evaluations and placements more quickly. A timetable in the agreement calls for evaluating and placing 90 percent of students within 60 days of the date of referral, and 99 percent within 80 days.

The cost of the settlement will be covered by federal funds and reserves set aside by the city.

An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 students with limited English proficiency are in special-education programs in the city's schools.--k.g.

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