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Editorial Partially Funded Mandates In 1975, when President Ford signed Public Law 94-142, The Education of AU Handicapped Children Act, he did so with reluctance. He stated that he was in support of the concept, but that the law promised far more than it would ever deliver. As we know, PL 94-142 guaranteed to each handicapped child a free appropriate public education (FAPE) with an individual education plan (IEP) that would be marked by parental involvement and agreement, with safeguards and recourse built into the system in case of disagreement. Over the years, PL 94-142 has evolved through reauthorizations and amendments to include an age range from time of identification through age 21, to expand the concept of an individual plan to include the family, and to change the focus from that of handicap to disability, as exemplified by the title of the most recent legislation , The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Undeniably, federal legislation over the past 20 years has had a significant positive impact on special education services and on the lives of disabled children and their families. However , President Ford's concerns are especially relevant today. Part of the original basis of the federal mandates that the states provide special educational support and services was the provision that the federal government would compensate the states for part of the cost, beginning with payment of an additional ten per cent of the additional cost of educating each handicapped child and increasing over the period of a few years to 50 per cent of additional costs. Congress never appropriated the money to achieve this goal. I do not believe the appropriations ever surpassed 12 percent of the additional cost. State and local education programs have been faced with a dilemma; they have a legal federal mandate to provide individual services to disabled children and their families, but the financial support implicit in the mandate has never materialized . In addition, the National Commission on Childhood Disability , appointed by President Clinton, is studying problems with the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) children's disability program, which pays families up to $458 per month per disabled child. At present low-income families with 890,000 disabled children are receiving cash payments. A proposal currently wonder Congressional consideration would replace direct cash payments to families with state block grants and reduce payments to families with a total of 415,000 children by the year 2000. I do not know how many families with deaf children receive SSI payments, but the number is significant and would obviously be cut in half or more if the legislation under consideration is passed. Recently, there have been several articles in the press about the financially drained school systems in our largest cities, with eroding tax bases, deteriorating facilities, violence, and increasing demands for services to disabled children and children from non-English dominant homes. Reports out of New York City have claimed that the federal mandates to provide special services to children with disabilities and children with limited English proficiency have had devastating effects on children in the general education program by diverting scarce resources and space. Out of curiosity I looked up the enrollment of deaf and hard of hearing children in the New York City public schools and was astonished to find a total enrollment of 2,270, including Junior High School #47 School for the Deaf. I did not include center schools for the deaf such as St. Francis de Sales or St. Joseph that are within the city limits but not part of the school system. Since there are fewer than 50,000 children enrolled in programs for the deaf and hard of hearing in the United States, the New York public schools accounts for almost 5% of the national enrollment. Put another way, the figure of 2,270 is much larger than the total enrollment in programs for the deaf and hard of hearing in all six New England states combined! I did some further investigating and found that the Los Angeles Unified School District reported 1,825 deaf and hard of hearing students and the Chicago Public Schools reported 1,053, giving the three cities a total of...


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