Special Education

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IDEA Delay: The U.S. Department of Education has once again pushed back its projected release date for the revised Individuals with Disabilities Education Act regulations. Officials now say they plan to have a final document out early next month.

The department is working as quickly as possible, spokesman Jim Bradshaw said last week. Congress amended the IDEA in June 1997, and, initially, the related rules were expected to be issued in April of this year. But the time frame for their release has faltered.

In Congress, House GOP members are "frustrated and disheartened," although they probably wouldn't take any action against the department until late January, said Jay Diskey, a spokesman for Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. During their three-month winter adjournment, members will likely hear complaints from their constituents, particularly "administrators who have had to go for 18 months without any solid guidance," he predicted.

In the shadow of the regulatory debate, another key federal document will probably miss its annual deadline. The department's "Twentieth Annual Report to Congress"--the omnibus report that compiles yearly statistics on special education and reports on trends within the field--also probably won't be released until January, Mr. Bradshaw said.

The report, which is required to be compiled each year, was last released in December 1997.

Aid to D.C.: A state agency in neighboring Maryland is lending a helping hand--complete with gavel--to try to remedy the District of Columbia school system's enormous backlog of special education cases.

In a partnership forged last month, the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings will provide judges to help the Washington schools make a dent in their caseload, according to Washington officials. About 2,500 students in the nation's capital say they have been denied special education services and have awaited due-process hearings for months, sometimes years.

Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, who has led the 77,000-student district since July, has made fixing special education a priority.

Denise Tann, a spokeswoman for the schools, said Ms. Ackerman promotes partnerships as reform tools. This fall, Frieda Lacey, a special education official on leave from the 125,500-student Montgomery County, Md., district, was named Ms. Ackerman's special assistant and assigned to revamp the special education department.

--Joetta L. Sack [email protected]

Vol. 18, Issue 16, Page 6

Published in Print: December 16, 1998, as Special Education

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