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Justices Decline Case On Attorneys' Fees

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The U.S. Supreme Court last week declined to review a federal appeals court's decision to award legal fees to parents who prevailed in special-education disputes resolved at the administrative level.

The case, District of Columbia v. Moore (Case No. 90-461), involved nine handicapped students who were allegedly denied appropriate special- education placements in the city's schools.

As a result of administrative hearings, the children were placed in programs that their families had sought.

A federal district judge ruled in 1987 that the families were entitled to reimbursement for the legal costs they incurred during the hearings, but his decision was reversed by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

The panel's decision, in turn, was reversed last June after the case was reheard by all the judges on the appellate court.

The administrative hearings had been held under the provisions of the Education of the Handicapped Act. The Congress amended the law in 1986 to allow the awarding of legal fees to parents who prevail in a relevant action or proceeding.

President Bush has nominated Bob Martinez, the outgoing governor of Florida, for the post of national drug-policy director.

If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Martinez would replace William J. Bennett, who resigned last month. The President selected Mr. Bennett, the former Secretary of Education, to be chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Martinez was defeated in his bid for reelection last month by his Democratic challenger, former Senator Lawton Chiles.

Although Mr. Martinez headed a National Governors' Association task force on substance abuse, some members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve the nomination, have questioned his qualifications for the job.

An independent commission of educators, child advocates, and researchers will study the Chapter 1 compensatory-education8program and suggest ways to improve it when it is reauthorized in 1993, the Council of Chief State School Officers announced last week.

David Hornbeck, a consultant and a former Maryland state superintendent of education, will head the group.

The endeavor will be funded by grants of $250,000 from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation and $150,000 from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The c.c.s.s.o. will provide staff support and office space.

The Education Department may ask the Congress next year to let it set standards that all postsecondary institutions would have to meet in order for their students to qualify for federal loans and grants, the department's top higher-education official said last week.

Such standards might include retention and graduation rates, students' success in passing occupational licensing examinations, and job-placement rates, Leonard L. Haynes 3rd, assistant secretary for postsecondary education, told members of the Consumer Bankers Association at a conference on the student-loan program.

The Congress is expected to reauthorize the Higher Education Act during its upcoming session.

Mr. Haynes added that the department is developing proposals for performance-based aid, which he argued would prompt low-achieving students to work harder.

Mr. Haynes also urged the bankers to do a better job of policing the schools of loan recipients, saying that banks are in a better position to observe institutions that operate unscrupulously.

"Just because someone figured out a way to defraud the government by setting up a storefront school and ripping off the local population does not mean that you must necessarily be passive enablers," he said.

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