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Published in Print: October 7, 1998, as Republicans Blast Delay in IDEA Regulations

Republicans Blast Delay in IDEA Regulations

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The final rules for the amended version of the nation's main special education law are still nowhere in sight--and Republicans in Congress want to know why.

Rep. Bill Goodling of Pennsylvania, who chairs the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, who chairs the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, want to see the regulations for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act amendments of 1997 before Congress adjourns this month.

In a Sept. 24 letter, the two asked Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley to avoid further regulating the law's requirements on disciplining disruptive disabled students--a source of sharp disagreement between the Clinton administration and congressional Republicans.

"In the 15 months that have gone by since Congress passed the IDEA amendments of 1997, it appears that the implementation process has come to a dead stop over the issue of disciplining students with disabilities," the chairmen wrote.

Flood of Comments

Further, Mr. Goodling and Mr. Jeffords asserted, the final regulations should not be applied in the current school year. But, "in order to avoid confusion, misunderstandings, and unnecessary litigation, we believe that it is important for the department to clearly identify to parents and school personnel the requirements that apply to the current school year and the requirements that will become effective in subsequent years," they said.

The Department of Education released its regulatory proposal last fall and had planned to issue final rules by April. But a deluge of more than 4,000 written comments and criticism of specific proposals by members of Congress and some education groups have held up the process, according to department officials. ("Department Still Compiling Final Regulations for IDEA," Aug. 5, 1998.)

At a recent department news briefing, officials reiterated promises that they are reviewing written comments carefully and making changes, but refused to predict when the final document might be released.

However, "anyone who's speculating that they're not coming out until next year is not accurate," said Judith E. Heumann, the department's assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services. She declined to elaborate.

Secretary Riley added that his staff is "very serious about responding to concerns."

As of last Thursday, the department had not prepared a response to the Republicans' letter.

Vol. 18, Issue 6, Page 26

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