News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Case Over Mentally Retarded Students
Reaches Tentative Settlement in Conn.
Connecticut would be compelled to change the way it educates students identified as mentally retarded, under a tentative agreement that, if accepted, would end a 10-year-old federal class action.
Plaintiffs argued that the state segregated mentally retarded students when it could have done otherwise, a violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, said Margaret H. Dignoti, the executive director of the ARC of Connecticut, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Hartford that sued the state.
Though both parties have agreed to the plan, a judge must still sign off on the settlement, an action that will likely take place sometime this summer, said David C. Shaw, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.
The settlement agreement calls in part for schools to place a larger percentage of mentally retarded students in regular classrooms; narrow the disparities in identification rates among racial and ethnic groups, as well as between girls and boys; and increase the participation of children with mental retardation in extracurricular activities, Ms. Dignoti said. An oversight panel would be selected to ensure that the state complied.
The cost to the state is expected to exceed $2.5 million over the next eight years, she said. Most of that funding would be earmarked for teacher training.
Federal Judge Sets Deadline for Arizona
A federal judge has told Arizona it must increase the amount of money it spends on programs for limited-English-proficient students by Jan. 31.
And if the state fails to do so, the lawyer who has sued the state on behalf of the state's LEP students vows he will ask the judge to impose penalties on the state, such as withholding federal funds.
In January of last year, U.S. District Judge Alfredo Marquez ruled in Flores v. Arizona that the amount of money the state allocates for programs for LEP students—$150 per student—is not adequate. In October, he ordered the state department of education to commission a study of what it costs to educate LEP students. He also told the state to increase the funding for such students in a timely manner.
The legislature didn't raise the amount of funding for LEP students in its recent legislative session. ("Ariz. Faces Sanctions in LEP-Student Funding Lawsuit," May 23, 2001.) So in May, Timothy M. Hogan, the executive director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, asked the judge to require the state to address the issue by Aug. 1.
Judge Marquez responded this month by setting a deadline of Jan. 31. In addition, the judge ruled that if the legislature holds a special session before January, it must address the issue sooner.
—Mary Ann Zehr
Vol. 20, Issue 41, Page 29