Parents urge Holden veto on school standards bill

Thursday, May 16, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Parents of special-needs students are urging Gov. Bob Holden to veto a bill changing the accommodation standards for public schools, saying their children's education could be shortchanged.

State education officials say the changes are necessary to spare schools from high costs and allow them to follow lower federal standards, which many school districts have already been using for decades.

Both sides were waging a Capitol campaign Wednesday -- just two days after the Legislature gave the measure final approval and sent it to the governor.

Holden will review the bill before deciding whether to sign it, said spokesman Jerry Nachtigal.

In 1973, Missouri lawmakers passed a special education law requiring "services sufficient to meet the needs and maximize the capabilities of handicapped and severely handicapped children."

But in 1974, the federal Congress passed a law simply requiring a "free and appropriate public education." Missouri schools never followed the state law, instead abiding by the federal standard.

In December, however, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled that a Camdenton school should follow the state's "maximization" standard for meeting a student's special education needs.

The state Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal. So school officials sought to repeal the state law.

"It was vague and it was probably very expensive to meet," said Rep. Dick Franklin, D-Independence, chairman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and sponsor of the bill. "There's no end to what maximization means."

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