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The Colorado Legislature last week gave final approval to a bill designed to make clear that the state's intradistrict school-choice program does not require schools to add programs or make physical changes to accommodate handicapped students.

The bill says that no school distict is required to alter the structure of school buildings or classrooms to implement a choice program. Nor are schools obliged to offer special programs they do not already offer.

Critics of the bill contend it allows discrimination against handicapped students who wish to participate in the choice program, which was adopted by the legislature last year.

The bill "will be more costly to enforce than it would be to provide necessary and appropriate educational accommodation for students who would be excluded by it," said Sonia Skakich-Scrima, president of the Coalition for Success in Learning, which includes a number of special-education groups.

"The state of Colorado will be opening itself up to an unprecedented caseload of legal suits," she added.

But the Colorado Association of School Boards, which pushed for the bill, argues that the choice program was never intended to require schools to make costly changes in facilities or programs to accommodate students who choose to attend them.

"It was clear that the choice was meant to be among existing" schools and programs, said Phil Fox, director of government relations for the casb

The legislation was sparked by a case in Montrose County in which a wheelchair-bound 8-year-old pupil and his family invoked the school-choice law in an attempt to get the district to relocate the 3rd-grade classroom at his neighborhood elementary school from the third floor to the first. The district wanted to bus the student to a school 10 miles away that was set up to handle handicapped pupils.

Nebraska lawmakers have given up on their attempt to keep residents from exercising "double choice" among school districts.

The double-choice option had become available as the result of the interaction between the state's open-enrollment program and a law requiring elementary-school districts to affiliate or merge with other districts to provide a K-12 education.

As a result, residents of elementary-school districts will be able to sign up with a district that charges relatively low taxes, and then send their children to another district, with better and presumably more expensive schools. (See Education Week, March 27, 1991.)

In response, legislative leaders proposed a bill to bar residents of a district that affiliates with another from full participation in open enrollment for at least four years.

But the bill was withdrawn, legislative aides said, after lawmakers realized that most property owners do not have school-age children and so would normally choose the less-expensive affiliation. Thus, the measure would only have penalized parents of school-age children.

In other action, the legislature last month rejected a bill to allow an income-tax deduction for educational expenses.

Vol. 10, Issue 33

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