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The Education Department this month proposed new rules governing changes in the federal early-intervention program for disabled infants and toddlers.

The nearly six-year-old program, which provides incentives for states to provide services to their youngest handicapped residents, was reauthorized last year as part of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1991.

The proposed regulations for the program, published in the May 1 Federal Register, adhere closely to that law.

Among other provisions, the rules would: give states more flexibility in serving children who are moving from the infant-and-toddler program around age 3 to school-based special-education programs; extend services to American Indian children on reservations; require that children be served in their "natural environments to the maximum extent appropriate to the needs of the child''; and allow states to delay full participation in the program at lower funding levels without having to drop out.

The department added language, however, requiring states that charge no fees for their early-intervention services to explain why. Federal officials said the intent is to encourage states to begin charging for such services on a sliding scale.

The deadline for comments on the proposed regulations is June 30.

Proposals for projects that focus on the development and growth of democracy will receive a high priority at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Lynne V. Cheney, the chairman of the endowment, said last month that the agency would begin "encouraging'' such grant proposals in recognition of the end of the Cold War and of the 2,500th anniversary of the birth of democracy in ancient Greece.

"We are all witnesses to the incredible pace of changes taking place,'' she said. "The creation of so many new countries and the openness of previously guarded Soviet archives and records poses countless opportunities as well as new challenges for historians, filmmakers, scholars, teachers, and students.''

The new emphasis applies to the endowment's grant programs for precollegiate teachers and high- school students as well as more traditional programs for university scholars. While the deadline for the agency's 1993 teacher-scholar program has already passed, high-school students who wish to make grant proposals for summer-study projects in 1993 have until November to apply.

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