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Chicago Settles Spec.-Ed. Dispute

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The Chicago school board has agreed to hire hundreds of additional teachers and other employees in order to end a four-year dispute with the U.S. Education Department over the quality of the school system's services for handicapped pupils.

In addition to requiring more spending for special-education programs, the agreement reached in late July between the district and the federal agency calls for the timely and appropriate placement of some 3,500 students who are awaiting spaces in special-education classes. At least 4,000 of the district's 410,000 students are classified as in need of special-education services.

Failure to reach a settlement would have cost the district $4 million in federal aid to magnet schools as well as more than $100 million annually in aid for other programs.

The school board will have to increase its budget by $4.4 million to carry out the plan, according to Bob Saigh, a spokesman for the district.

Under the terms of the agreement, educational services for handicapped children will be spread throughout the district's 600 schools rather than being concentrated in three buildings, as they currently are.

The school board also agreed to hire 350 new special-education employees, including 68 psychologists, 73 guidance counselors, 100 teachers, and 100 teacher's aides.

And the board agreed to create a new associate superintendent's position to oversee the special-education program.

The agreement appears to lay to rest a dispute that began in December 1984 when the Education Department's civil-rights office told the board that it was investigating the district's evaluation and placement of handicapped children. An administrative-law judge ruled last August that the existing special-education system discriminated against handicapped and learning-disabled children.--pw

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