Special Education:

Estimates of Handicapped Indian Preschoolers and Sufficiency of Services

HRD-90-61BR: Published: Mar 5, 1990. Publicly Released: Mar 5, 1990.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) program for educating handicapped Indian preschool-age children on 63 reservations, focusing on the: (1) sufficiency of the services they received; and (2) BIA schools' expected attendance rates.

GAO found that nearly 3,000 handicapped Indian preschoolers lived on the 63 reservations, and BIA: (1) provided funding for 437, or 52 percent, of the 838 preschoolers that received services during the 1987-1988 school year; and (2) did not identify and locate about 1,237 of them, as federal regulations required. GAO also found that: (1) of the 791 handicapped Indian preschoolers with individual education programs, at least 24 percent were receiving fewer services then prescribed; (2) many programs suffered from shortages of personnel due to inadequate funding; (3) conflicting interpretations of applicable law by BIA, the Department of Education, and various states affected service availability and delivery; and (4) while it could not determine the number of handicapped Indian preschoolers who might attend BIA schools upon reaching school age, data for 20 reservations indicated that about 50 percent of eligible kindergarten and first-grade students attended BIA schools.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Interior contracted with a firm to develop public service announcements and make other efforts to publicize the availability of services to handicapped preschoolers on reservations and encourage more complete identification of such children. Interior developed and forward to Congress a plan to ensure that all children with handicapping conditions are provided services.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to fully implement the requirements of 25 C.F.R. 45.11. Concerning this, the Assistant Secretary should take actions to ensure that each BIA field office annually identifies and locates every preschooler on the 63 reservations with BIA schools thought to be handicapped and in need of special education services.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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