A blue-ribbon study group on local government recommended yesterday that a privately funded nonprofit corporation be set up to help the District and its suburbs attack joint problems in public education on a regional basis.
The Greater Washington Research Center's Task Force on Local Government, headed by former World Bank President Robert S. McNamara, said that the corporation could help the governments identify such areas as instruction for the learning disabled, which are too specialized to be addressed economically by a single school system.
It would then develop educational programs in these fields -- programs in which each locality, by contract, could arrange to enroll students with special educational needs.
Such an "educational services corporation," the task force said in a report, would enlist the resources of both public and private schools in the Washington area, as well as the technical training resources and facilities of private industry.
It was described as a "smaller, independent and more flexible device to pioneer new programs" in an era of declining enrollments and budget cuts. Public school enrollment in the area fell nearly 21 percent between 1974 and 1981 -- about twice the national average, the report said.
The trend is expected to continue over the next five years, due to the increasing popularity of private schools, coupled with a general decline in population.
The report also proposed that local school boards in the region consider permitting some individual schools to operate with greater autonomy within their immediate communities in order to drastically reduce the present "overburden" of school administration.
"Much school-district supervision is mandated by state law and/or customs of an earlier age . . . ," the report said. "Most trends in society today, however, run counter to that old norm, and not just for financial reasons. Local control, decentralization of authority, and impatience with the frequent lack of responsiveness by large organizations, all have argued recently for smaller units of production, as well as education.
"Moreover, no one today would argue that large organizations are necessary for quality education in the light of present evidence. It is likely that public school education must change drastically in its resource management if it is to survive at all."
In its fifth of nine reports to be released in a study of local governments in the Washington metropolitan area, the task force also urged the gradual relaxation of rent controls, to encourage investing in the rehabilitation of private rental housing.
It said that local governments should explore creative joint public and private financing of neighborhood rehabilitation, including tax incentives for rental housing rehabilitation. They also might look toward upgrading local services, such as police protection, lighting and trash collection, in neighborhoods targeted for rehabilitation, the report suggested.
In the field of health care, the report said, local governments should combine with business and consumer groups to apply market pressure to spiraling medical costs.
"Co-payment health insurance, prepayment plans and preventative health care should be studied as potentially helpful," the report said.