Special Education Column

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According to the U.S. Education Department's latest figures, about 4.1 million special-education students were served under P.L. 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, in the 1984-85 school year--about 22,000 more than the year before.

The largest increase in pupils served occurred in the learning-disabled category. There were 1.8 million learning-disabled students last year, an increase of 34,044 from the previous year.

The Education Department also distributed a total of $1.13 billion in grants to the states for the 1985-86 school year, up from $1.06 billion last year.

Within the 50 states, California received the largest grant--more than $100 million to serve about 370,000 special-education students--while Vermont, with only 7,979 such students, received the smallest grant--$2.1 million.

Getting parents and school officials to sit down informally to resolve a special-education dispute before holding a formal due-process hearing can be highly successful, according to a study of mediation in California and Massachusetts.

The Center for Community Justice, with a grant from the National Institute for Dispute Resolution, found that mediation was successful in 37 percent of all California cases filed in 1983; in Massachusetts, it was successful in 51 percent of the cases. While P.L. 94-142 does not require mediation in settling disputes about a child's program, it is suggested as a useful method. The process involves using mediators--with widely ranging backgrounds--employed by the state department of education to work with both parties before a formal due-process hearing.

Government agencies need to cooperate more to provide jobs for the handicapped, said officials gathered at last month's conference sponsored by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education.

The meeting, held in Washington, was aimed at bringing together special-education officials from a variety of organizations to focus on problems the handicapped student faces when moving out of school and into the workplace.

To ease the transition period such students face, the approximately 50 participants at the conference suggested that government leaders need to: establish a coordinating body at the state level to oversee the various social-service agencies involved in the transition from school to employment; offer preservice and inservice training for all those involved in the transition effort; create a federal definition and policy on transition and supported employment (which involves job coaching, counseling, and follow-up services); disseminate information about existing state and federal employment programs; and develop marketing strategies to help handicapped students get jobs.

A spokesman for NASDE said the group will issue a report on the meeting by mid-October.

Vol. 05, Issue 02, Page 18

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