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Published in Print: February 26, 2003, as News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Ed. Dept., Oregon At Odds Over Services

A stern letter from the Department of Education's general counsel—warning Oregon that it failed to follow a requirement under the "No Child Left Behind" Act of 2001 to provide certain Title I students with extra help—has education officials in the state scratching their heads.

Oregon more than met the requirements in plenty of time, state officials maintain.

"Frankly, we were a little puzzled by the letter," said Patrick Burk, the deputy superintendent for educational policy, who immediately wrote back detailing his state's actions. "We have developed a specific strategy for providing supplemental services."

The Feb. 6 letter from General Counsel Brian W. Jones stated that Oregon did not provide a list of supplemental-service providers in a timely manner to parents whose children, because their schools were in a second year of "school improvement" status, were eligible for such services.

"A failure to meet this important requirement would be a serious breach of your commitment to your students," the letter from the federal agency stated.

But because the state had only one school—Portland's Roosevelt High School—subject to the requirement, Oregon officials say they worked directly with local officials last spring on the list.

Roosevelt High parents weren't the only ones who received the list earlier this year. So did the parents of two other low-achieving Portland schools—Marshall and Jefferson high schools—even though they weren't in the second year of "school improvement."

—Rhea R. Borja

D.C. Legal Fees Capped For Special Education

Congress has approved a measure that will impose a $4,000 cap on fees to lawyers handling special education cases in the District of Columbia.

The cap, resulting from a deal between Senate and House negotiators, was attached to a $512 million District of Columbia aid package within the omnibus 2003 appropriations bill.

The measure also bans lawyers from receiving payment if they have a financial stake in special education businesses that would present a conflict of interest.

Washington school officials had been lobbying to have the cap on legal fees reinstated since it was eliminated in 2001. At the time, lawyers and other groups argued that the city should set any such limits for itself. Opponents of the cap also contend that special education students suffer under fee limits because lawyers are then motivated to settle cases quickly and cheaply.

—Lisa Fine Goldstein

Vol. 22, Issue 24, Page 20

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