- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

BALTIMORE (AP) — State officials asked a federal judge yesterday to approve a plan to improve Baltimore’s special- education efforts by placing state education officials in the city school system.

While noting the plan falls short of a state takeover, the filing by Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said it “recognizes the need for clear direction” for the city school system and that “differences will occur that can only be resolved, as a last resort, through a court-ordered dispute resolution process.”

Both sides had until yesterday to respond to a filing last week seeking implementation of the plan. Calls to city school officials seeking comment and a copy of their response were not immediately returned.

In last week’s filing in U.S. District Court, state education officials called Baltimore’s special-education program “a failure of extraordinary magnitude.” The filing was made before U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, who is overseeing a 21-year-old class-action lawsuit, in which attorneys for disabled students said the city schools failed to give them appropriate services and to diagnose disabilities accurately.

In its response, state officials disputed city school officials’ contention that service interruptions in the 2004-05 school year were an aberration. Pointing to a court-ordered audit of the 2004-05 school year, state officials said that even when city school officials became aware of the problem, the school system was not able to determine the scope of the problem and develop a timely plan.

Baltimore officials have argued that the state already has broad authority over its special-education program and can better help the city schools by eliminating redundancies in auditing and monitoring, and improving training and technical assistance.

In yesterday’s filing, the state said it conducted a survey about training needs in the past year, but school officials did not respond.

The filing also was critical of record-keeping by city school officials, noting that a state analysis found that “in some schools entire student record cards were missing” and proof of residency was missing in 75 percent of records.

More than 15,000 of Baltimore’s 86,000 students have a physical, emotional or learning disability. .

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