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Bowing to opposition from state special-education directors, the Education Department has withdrawn a controversial plan to withhold some special-education personnel-training funds for a special grant competition.

Instead, department officials announced in the March 6 Federal Register, they will redistribute the money among all states.

The department's office of special-education programs in January proposed withholding $650,000 in training funds to give a second round of grants to five states. But the National Association of State Directors of Special Education contended the funds should be distributed among all states to use as they saw fit.

Under the reallocation, 18 states will receive larger grants this year. Another 39 smaller states and territories will continue to receive the minimum $75,000 grant to provide inservice training for state and local school employees.

Less than a third of eligible handicapped preschoolers living on Indian reservations 4served by Bureau of Indian Affairs' schools are receiving special-education services mandated by federal law, the General Accounting Office has found.

Many of those who are served receive inadequate care, according to the gao's report, which was issued this month.

The report states that only 838 of the estimated 3,000 3- and 4-year-olds living on 63 reservations are receiving the level of care mandated by the Education of the Handicapped Act. It argues that the b.i.a. has not fulfilled the law's requirement to locate and identify handicapped children.

The report attributes the problem to misunderstandings over eligibility standards among the Education Department, the Department of the Interior, and state agencies. It also cites inadequate funding and a lack of qualified special-education teachers in the bia's ranks.

Copies of the report, "Special Education: Estimates of Handicapped Indian Preschoolers and Sufficiency of Services," can be obtained by writing gao, P.O. Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md. 20877. The first five copies are free; additional copies cost $2 each.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs must encourage "flexibility" at 8the local school level if it hopes to improve its educational programs among the diverse tribal populations it serves, one witness at a bia "mini-summit" argued last week.

"Our needs are very much different from the Southwest, where their reservations are largely" monocultural, said Karen Cornelius-Fenton, education director for the confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

Ms. Cornelius-Fenton, who works on the Flathead reservation in Montana, took part in the most recent in a series of meetings that the agency is holding across the West. (See Education Week, Feb. 21, 1990.)

Because Indian students are in the minority in all but one of the schools on the Flathead reservation, and because many Indian parents feel "unwelcome" in those schools, the bia's proposal to increase parental involvement in education may be difficult to implement there, Ms. Cornelius-Fenton said.

"We need to develop the ways that we see fit to empower our parents," she added.

The summits are designed to canvass tribal leaders and educators for their opinions about four intiatives that bia is undertaking to improve schooling for its 38,000 students.

Vol. 09, Issue 26

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