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The U.S. Supreme Court last week granted the Justice Department's request to argue in an upcoming case in favor of requiring public schools to provide special-education services to students who attend private religious schools.

Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr argues in papers filed with the High Court that the First Amendment's ban on government establishment of religion does not prohibit an Arizona school district from providing a speech interpreter for a deaf child enrolled in a Roman Catholic high school.

The case before the Court, Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District (Case No. 92-94), will be argued in February or March.

The department could modify or reverse its position after President-elect Bill Clinton takes office next month.

Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander has extended the charter of the President's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans until Nov. 9, 1994.

The commission "will continue to play an important role'' in working with the Hispanic community and helping it achieve the six national education goals, Mr. Alexander said in a written statement announcing his decision.

President Bush directed Mr. Alexander to establish the advisory panel in September 1990. It took the Administration a year to get the commission up and running, however.

Its members issued a report in October saying they had made little progress. (See Education Week, Oct. 21, 1992.)

The Education Department has issued a guide to federal programs that are available to private school students and teachers.

The 110-page handbook is designed to help private school students take full advantage of federal programs and services and to assist school administrators in "carrying out the full intent of these statutes,'' Michelle Easton, the head of the department's office of private education, said in a statement.

In addition to discussing laws and regulations governing private schools, the guide includes statistics on private education and brief histories of relevant legislation and U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

While supplies last, copies of the Handbook on Serving Private School Children With Federal Education Programs may be obtained free of charge by writing the Office of Private Education, 400 Maryland Ave., S.W., Room 5101, Washington, D.C. 20202.

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