News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Diverse Spec. Ed. Enrollment Boosts Costs Nationwide

The number of students receiving special education and the costs of those services continue to rise, according to the latest Department of Education statistics.

In its annual report to Congress on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, released last month, the department says that 5.6 million children and youths ages 3 to 21 received special education services during the 1995-96 school year.

That's an increase of 3.5 percent, or 188,876 participants, from the previous year.

The special education population is also becoming more diverse, with an influx of "medically fragile" students, the report says. Those changes make costs difficult to contain, it says.

Federal funding has not kept up with the population and cost increases. The department found that the per-child allocation dropped from $418 in fiscal 1995 to $413 in 1996 because of the rising number of students identified as disabled.

But the 34 percent increase for elementary and secondary state grants this past fiscal year, to $3.1 billion, will significantly raise the per-pupil allocation, the department reports.

Top Civilian Honor for Shanker

President Clinton is scheduled to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Albert Shanker this week.

Albert Shanker

Mr. Clinton is granting the nation's highest civilian honor to recognize the work by the longtime president of the American Federation of Teachers to "change radically how schools and teachers' unions do business" and for his advocacy of high academic standards, according to a Jan. 8 statement released by Michael McCurry, the White House press secretary.

Mr. Shanker died last year. At a memorial service in April, Mr. Clinton described him as "a model, a mentor, and a friend, a union leader, a national leader, a world leader."

"But first, last, and always ... Al Shanker was our teacher, and clearly one of the most important teachers of the 20th century," he said.

Mr. Clinton will bestow the award at a Jan. 15 White House ceremony. Fourteen others will also receive the medal.

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