House Oks Special Education Funds

Article excerpt

Discipline for disabled students was the main sticking point in protracted negotiations that led to House approval Tuesday of a bill to finance special education for about 6 million children.

In the end, Senate and House negotiators were able to agree on a compromise that satisfied both sides of the political spectrum, from Rep. William L. Clay, D-Mo., to Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo.

The House easily passed the measure Tuesday, 420-3, with only Reps. Herbert H. Bateman, R-Va., Ray LaHood, R-Ill., and Ron Paul, R-Texas, voting no. The Senate is expected to take it up again today. President Bill Clinton has promised to sign the legislation. The new bill would give local officials more leeway to remove disabled children who bring weapons or drugs to school or otherwise threaten classroom safety. But it also would guarantee a hearing for those children and provide that they continue to get an education elsewhere. A child whose conduct was unrelated to a disability would be disciplined just as any other. Clay managed House Democratic support for the measure. He called it "a very delicate compromise . . . a truly remarkable example of what we can accomplish when we work together." Clay said he was glad that Congress would extend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The law was first enacted in 1975 to guarantee a free, "appropriate" education for children with a range of disabilities, including physical impairments such as deafness, or emotional or learning problems. As much as possible, children are to be brought into regular classrooms rather than being segregated. Ashcroft had been one of several senators to block the funding bill last year, arguing that it needed to give school administrators more leeway to discipline or expel problem students. He also succeeded in getting language into the law requiring that disciplinary records be transferred with students so that teachers are aware of students' previous behavior. …