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Ga. County Seeks To Prevent Cutoff of Federal Aid

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Washington--Lawyers for the DeKalb County, Ga., schools last week asked a federal judge to stop the U.S. Education Department from cutting off the district's federal aid.

The department moved to cut off the district's funds because it contends that the district has failed to comply with requests from the department's office for civil rights for information necessary to ensure compliance with the laws it enforces.

District officials are seeking a ruling on whether the ocr has the authority to investigate certain special-education complaints, and whether the district can refuse to cooperate with a probe it believes oversteps the o.c.r.'s jurisdiction. (See Education Week, Sept. 5, 1990.)

The district contends that the Education of the Handicapped Act is the sole vehicle through which parents may contest the placement of disabled students. Also, it contends, the o.c.r. may not properly investigate such parental complaints as civil-rights violations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which bars discrimination against disabled people in federally funded programs.

Richard D. Komer, the agency's deputy assistant secretary for policy, said last week that a victory for the district would have "broad ramifications." He noted that the "interaction between e.h.a. and 504" could be raised as an issue in most special-education cases, which make up a large percentage of the o.c.r.'s caseload.

The Georgia Department of Education had joined the district in refusing to provide the o.c.r. with information, and funds to the state agency were to be cut off as well. But state officials reversed their position, and the cutoff order against the agency was rescinded Aug. 31.

District officials estimate that the DeKalb schools receive more than $16 million a year in federal funds. The department contends, however, that some funds would be unaffected by the cutoff order, and that slightly more than $7.6 million is at stake.

A ruling is expected this week on the district's request for a temporary restraining order.--j.m.

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