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U.S. Department of Education: Promoting Educational Excellence for all Americans

Public participation (Sec. 300.165)

Comment: Several commenters objected to the removal of current Sec. Sec. 300.280 through 300.284, regarding public participation, and recommended that all provisions, including those related to public hearings, comment periods, and review of public comments be restored.

Discussion: We do not believe it is necessary to retain in the regulations the requirements in current Sec. Sec. 300.280 through 300.284 because the provisions in Sec. 300.165 and GEPA, in 20 U.S.C. 1232d(b)(7), provide sufficient opportunities for public participation. We also believe retaining the requirements in Sec. Sec. 300.280 through 300.284 would place unnecessary regulatory burden on States. Section 300.165(a) incorporates the language in section 612(a)(19) of the Act, regarding public participation in the adoption of policies and procedures to implement Part B of the Act, and requires States to ensure that there are public hearings, adequate notice of hearings, and an opportunity for comment available to the general public. Furthermore, paragraph (b) of this section requires States to comply with the public participation requirements of GEPA, in 20 U.S.C. 1232d(b)(7), before submitting a State plan under this part. In accordance with the GEPA requirement, the State must assure that it will provide reasonable opportunities for participation by local agencies, representatives of the class of individuals affected by programs under this part and other interested institutions, organizations, and individuals in the planning for the operation of programs under this part. GEPA also requires that the State publish each proposed State plan under this part, in a manner that will ensure circulation throughout the State, at least 60 days prior to the date on which the State plan is submitted to the Secretary or on which the State plan becomes effective, whichever occurs earlier, with an opportunity for public comments on such plan to be accepted for at least 30 days. In addition, the State must comply with any State-specific public participation requirements in adopting policies and procedures related to Part B of the Act.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter requested that the regulations define the meaning of "adequate notice" as it is used in Sec. 300.165(a) to ensure that there is adequate notice of public hearings prior to adopting any policies and procedures needed to comply with Part B of the Act.

Discussion: We do not think it is appropriate or necessary to include in the regulations a definition of "adequate notice" because what constitutes "adequate notice" will vary depending on the unique circumstances in each State and we believe States should have the flexibility of determining and applying a workable and reasonable standard that meets their circumstances to ensure public participation at public hearings. We believe it would be reasonable for the State to assume that it provided adequate notice if, at its public hearings, there were sufficient representatives of the general public, including individuals with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, in attendance.

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter requested that the regulations require States to provide notices of public hearings in multiple languages and alternative formats.

Discussion: It is unnecessary to include regulations requiring States to provide notice of public hearings in multiple languages and alternative formats. Public agencies are required by other Federal statutes to take appropriate actions to ensure that the public has access, in alternative formats and languages other than English, to public hearings. The other Federal statutory provisions that apply in this regard are section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and its implementing regulations in 34 CFR part 104 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability by recipients of Federal financial assistance), title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act and its implementing regulations in 28 CFR part 35 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, regardless of receipt of Federal funds), and title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its implementing regulations in 34 CFR part 100 (prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by recipients of Federal financial assistance).

Changes: None.

Comment: One commenter requested that the regulations require States to work with the parent centers to identify appropriate locations and times for public hearings.

Discussion: There is nothing in the Act or these regulations that would prohibit a State from working with the parent centers to identify appropriate locations and times for public hearings, but we see no need to require States to do so. We believe that this matter should be left to State discretion.

Changes: None.