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The Education Department is expected to drop a proposal to relax standards for private schools that accept special-education students from public schools, a department spokeswoman said last week.

Last August, the department published a notice in the Federal Register proposing that federal rules be changed to require that private schools meet standards "comparable or equivalent'' to those applied to public schools. (See Education Week, Sept. 9, 1992.)

The department received about 3,000 comments on the proposal and nearly all were critical, the spokeswoman said. She said a notice will appear in the Federal Register in several weeks officially announcing the plan's demise.

Sherry L. Kolbe, the executive director of the National Association of Private Schools for Exceptional Children, said her group had sought to ease the rule requiring teachers in private schools that accept disabled children placed by public schools to meet the same certification standards applied to public school teachers.

Rep. Cardiss Collins, D-Ill., last week introduced a bill that would require federally funded colleges and universities to report annually to the U.S. Education Department on participation rates and expenditures for men's and women's athletic programs.

At a hearing last week before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, and Competitiveness, witnesses said continuing inequities between men's and women's college sports programs justify increased federal involvement.

According to a study by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, 70 percent of scholarships at Division I schools go towards men's programs, despite the passage of federal legislation in 1972 barring sex bias in federally funded educational programs.

The proposed "equity in athletics disclosure act,'' HR 921, would take effect July 1, with the institutions' first reports due to the department a year later.

The Education Department should consider merging programs that are complementary and re-examine the missions of all programs in light of the the six national education goals, the agency's inspector general, James B. Thomas, told a House subcommittee last week.

Mr. Thomas made the suggestions during a hearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. It was called in order to provide the subcommittee's six new members with an overview of the department's budget.

Sally Christensen, the department's acting assistant secretary for management and budget, said department officials had already begun a review similar to that suggested by Mr. Thomas in preparation for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

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