The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975
Amendments to the Education of the Handicapped Act to improve educational services in local public schools for children with mental, physical, emotional, and learning handicaps require that free appropriate public education be available for all handicapped children. Schools are required to evaluate a child's special needs, develop an individualized education program for the child, involve the child's parents, and educate the handicapped child along with nonhandicapped children as much as possible. The Bureau of Education for the Handicapped (BEH) has estimated that twice the number of handicapped children needing special education exist as those identified by the States. In trying to get States to increase the number of children identified and reported, BEH has shown little concern for possible mislabeling and overcounting of children. Overcounting children by the States could affect the appropriation and distribution of Federal funds, and erroneously labeling children as handicapped could have a stigmatizing effect. The eligibility criteria for children with only minor impairments, such as speech impediments need to be defined in the law. It is difficult to determine whether a program is a related service or special education under the standards. A speech impairment might not be an impairment which adversely affects a child's educational performance, a criteria for special education. The requirements for individualized education have not been met. Program goals of serving all handicapped children will not be met due to inadequate funding by the States and an inability to find needed special education personnel. Many of the difficulties in adequately and promptly implementing the Act's requirements occurred because of State and Federal management problems. GAO will propose that Congress clarify whether children who are receiving only speech therapy or other related services are eligible for coverage. In view of the difficulties the States are having in funding the programs, Congress may wish to consider providing incentives to stimulate State and local funding or increase Federal funding for the program. A decision to exempt those children from coverage under the Act whose impairments have not adversely affected their educational performance could increase the chances of reaching the law's goals sooner, if funding is not reduced.