Governors Plead for Relief From Special-Education Rules
The nation's governors would like to move revisions of federal special-education law to the top of the Congressional agenda.
The National Governors' Association sent a letter this month to Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., calling for immediate changes in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which the governors said puts too heavy a bureaucratic burden on states and school districts.
The N.G.A. is taking the Speaker up on his proposal, outlined at the governors' meeting in January, to hold regular House "correction days" to change burdensome laws. The letter suggests that the first target should be the landmark 1975 law that guarantees an education to disabled children.
The governors' group proposed:
- Giving states the option to combine I.D.E.A. funds with federal money that supports school-reform activities if states agree to include many disabled students in statewide assessments;
- Requiring the Education Department to draft formal regulations rather than interpreting special-education law in letters to states and districts; and
- Simplifying the application process.
The Associated Press has surveyed the governors about House Republicans' plan to replace the federal school-lunch and -breakfast programs with a block grant. (See Education Week, March 1, 1995.)
Eighteen of the 30 Republican governors and one Democrat, Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia, said they liked the proposal, according to the A.P. Ten governors, all Democrats, were described as "strongly opposed."
The others reportedly expressed uncertainty, had no definite opinion, or said they were still studying the proposal.
Some of the supporters said their backing was contingent on a sufficient funding level and on the absence of regulation.
The school-meals issue, meanwhile, continued to enjoy a high profile in Washington last week.
President Clinton continued the Democrats' assault on the G.O.P.'s proposed changes during a visit to an elementary school in nearby Alexandria, Va., where he had lunch with children.
But Mr. Clinton mischaracterized the proposal as being a part of the $17.4 billion in fiscal 1995 spending rescissions being pushed by House Republicans.
While many educators and school-nutrition lobbyists say the 4.5 percent annual increases included in the proposed block grant would not keep pace with the need, no school-meals money is included in the rescissions bill.
Republicans have complained that the barrage of criticism from Democrats and school-lunch advocates has been unfair.
Some of that criticism was dramatized last week when about 300 representatives from an advocacy group for low-income people forced the cancellation of a speech by Speaker Gingrich in a protest over the nutrition plan.
Members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, brandishing empty lunch trays,interrupted a meeting here sponsored by the National Association of Counties. Mr. Gingrich was to give a luncheon address, but association officials canceled it.
Republicans charged last week that ACORN had received funding from President Clinton's national-service program, AmeriCorps. But Administration officials said that the funds go to a separate entity, the ACORN Housing Corporation, which helps low-income families find housing. No AmeriCorps members took part in the disruption, officials said.
Education and child-welfare advocates were invited to the White House last week for a briefing on the 1995 spending cuts slated for House debate beginning March 15.
The White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta, warned about 125 participants that their programs would be hard-hit in the rescissions bill, and alleged that the savings would pay for G.O.P. tax breaks. Republican leaders contend that the cuts will help balance the federal budget.
The meeting was closed to the press, but participants said afterward that Mr. Panetta had urged them to spread the word about the G.O.P. plans locally.
The Education Department would lose $1.7 billion for drug education, job training, staff training, academic standards, and other programs that had been appropriated for the current fiscal year. (See Education Week, March 8, 1995.)
The Labor Department would lose $2.1 billion for youth-employment programs, and the Corporation for National Service would lose $210 million.
"Volunteer charities cannot take care of the rescissions that are coming," said Gordon Raley, the executive director of the National Assembly of Volunteer and Human Service Organizations.
--Lynn Schnaiberg, Mark Pitsch, & Robert C. Johnston