Special Education

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State school funding lawsuits may hold implications for special education, an analysis of recently decided cases says.

Disparities in special education services were cited in successful litigation against three states, and that trend may give special education advocates a stronger voice in their pursuit of more-equitable funding, according to Deborah A. Verstegen, an associate professor of education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Her findings appeared in the Winter 1998 Journal of Special Education Finance, released last month.

Since 1989, school finance systems in 21 states have been challenged in state high courts. Three of the 10 cases where the funding systems were declared unconstitutional addressed special education funding: The Alabama, Ohio, and Wyoming supreme courts found that their states' systems violated disabled students' rights to a free and appropriate public education as guaranteed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

In Alabama, for instance, the state supreme court in 1993 upheld a ruling in a suit citing poor schools where no provisions were made for students eligible for special education.

"The recent state high court decisions ... suggest that inequitable and inadequate special education finance systems across the states are vulnerable to future court challenges," Ms. Verstegen writes in her article. "Ultimately, the new wave of school finance legislation may finally provide the means to achieve the fair and adequate funding of educational programs and services for children with disabilities."

Two organizations are launching a first-ever national public service advertising campaign this month to boost awareness of learning disabilities.

The Advertising Council and the Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities hope to warn parents of the early signs of learning disabilities and help them find resources.

The Advertising Council, a nonprofit group in New York City that produces public service and educational programs, will release four television advertisements, four radio spots, and one print ad with a toll-free number, (888) GR8-MIND, for ordering a free brochure on learning disabilities. The ads will also promote a World Wide Web site,, with information on learning disabilities.

The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities is a Washington-based coalition of seven disability groups whose members are also planning local outreach programs as part of the campaign.

--JOETTA L. SACK [email protected]

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