House balks at billions for education of disabled

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Friday narrowly stripped from their education bill a proposal that would have guaranteed billions of dollars in federal money a year for disabled students.

After nearly three hours of heated debate, the proposal won approval from a Senate education panel but lost 6-8 among a delegation of House members. Special education is among the few issues remaining to be worked out in the education plan, which lawmakers hope to present to President Bush by the end of the year.

The defeat leaves the future of special education funding uncertain. Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, presented an alternative funding proposal, but Senate Democrats defeated it.

The Senate last spring approved the special education measure, which would guarantee an annual $2.5 billion increase for the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, specifying that the money be kept safe from the yearly appropriations process.

The Senate measure would have mandated $8.8 billion next year for special education programs; funding would reach just over $21 billion in 2007, the last year of the guaranteed increases. The amendment was sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb.

President Bush asked Congress to increase spending on the act by $1 billion. House appropriators raised that to $1.4 billion, but the money is not guaranteed to increase each year. Opponents of the guaranteed new money said it could lead schools to place more students in special education classes instead of getting them help in regular classrooms. They also said the measure would not guarantee that disabled students get the money they deserve, because it lets schools spend up to half of the new dollars on other programs.

About 6 million children receive special education funding, which pays for school instruction and help for everything from dyslexia to paralysis. The money also pays for the voluminous paperwork required to keep track of children’s progress.

education programs. Lawmakers this week said they had dropped a House-approved measure requiring students with limited English skills to be taught in English after three consecutive years in a U.S. school. Instead, students could be taught in English and their native language, but would have to prove competence in English after three years.

The committee also defeated a measure that would have required schools to adopt strict rules on pesticide use and tell parents when the chemicals are being applied at school.

On the Net:

Senate: http://www.senate.gov

House: http://www.house.gov

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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