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News In Brief: Panel Urges Easing Special-Ed. Mandates

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An independent panel charged with reviewing the role of federal mandates has recommended modifying two major laws that protect children with disabilities.

The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations last month issued preliminary recommendations calling on lawmakers to ease regulatory and financial burdens posed by the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The panel also called on Congress to repeal seven federal mandates unrelated to education.

The IDEA guarantees disabled children a "free, appropriate public education." The panel urged Congress to increase funding under the law's grant program, change its structure to eliminate incentives to place children in special education, and allow more flexible implementation. The panel also suggests curbing litigation by requiring parents and schools to use dispute-resolution alternatives, and limiting parents' right to sue schools over special-education issues.

Lawmakers are expected to reauthorize the IDEA this year.

The advisory panel is accepting comment on their report until March 15. On March 6 and 7, the group will sponsor a conference in Washington on federal mandates.

Single copies of the report are free from the ACIR, 800 K St. N.W., Suite 450, South Tower, Washington, D.C. 20575. Requests can be faxed to (202) 653-5429 or made through the Internet, at

Television Ratings

President Clinton will ask the television industry to come up with a voluntary ratings system to help parents limit their children's viewing of violent or sexually explicit shows, White House officials say.

That is one issue the president plans to bring up at a White House meeting with media-industry leaders, which is tentatively scheduled for later this month.

The president will also press his view that broadcasters should be required to air a minimum of three hours of educational television per week, officials said. The Federal Communications Commission is weighing such a rule.

'Drug Czar'

President Clinton has announced that he will nominate U.S. Army Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey as the nation's new "drug czar."

Gen. McCaffrey, the commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command, has been involved recently in drug-interdiction efforts. Mr. Clinton introduced him in his Jan. 23 State of the Union Address.

The Senate must confirm the general's nomination as director of the office of national drug-control policy. He would succeed Lee P. Brown, who left in December to teach at Rice University.

Meanwhile, a White House conference on youth drug use that was planned for January was postponed with no new date set.

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