Report says Texas failed its special ed. students

Public Education

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) released Thursday the findings of monitoring activities relating to Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The release comes after the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the DOE initiated monitoring following reports about the significant decline in the number of children identified as children with disabilities eligible for special education and related services in Texas.

The monitoring report lists three specific areas in which TEA failed to comply with Federal law:

  1. TEA failed to ensure that all children with disabilities residing in the State who are in need of special education and related services were identified, located and evaluated, regardless of the severity of their disability, as required by IDEA .
  2. TEA failed to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) was made available to all children with disabilities residing in the State in Texas’s mandated age ranges (ages 3 through 21.
  3. TEA failed to fulfill its general supervisory and monitoring responsibilities as required and its implementing regulations to ensure that school districts throughout the state properly implemented the IDEA’s requirements.

“Every child with a disability must have appropriate access to special education and related services that meet his or her unique needs,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “Far too many students in Texas had been precluded from receiving supports and services under IDEA I’ve worked directly with Commissioner Morath on resolving these issues, and I appreciate the Texas Education Agency’s efforts to ensure all children with disabilities are appropriately identified, evaluated and served under IDEA. While there is still more work to be done,  leaders in the state have assured me they are committed to ensuring all students with disabilities can achieve their full potential.”

In 2004, Texas implemented a special education representation indicator of 8.5 percent to measure the percentage of students enrolled in special education and related services.   OSEP found that indicator resulted in a declining identification rate of children with disabilities in Texas. Data from TEA demonstrates the number of children identified as children with disabilities under IDEA declined from the 2003-2004 to 2016-2017 school years by 32,000 students, while total enrollment in Texas schools grew by more than one million students.  

As early as November of 2016,  TEA began taking steps to address initial concerns expressed by OSEP, including issuing a letter to every independent school district in the State reiterating their child find responsibilities under the IDEA. TEA supported OSEP in obtaining necessary information throughout the Department’s monitoring, including coordinating a series of listening sessions throughout the State which were attended by both OSEP and TEA staff. Additionally, Governor Abbott, with the Texas legislature, implemented a new law that prohibits the use of school performance indicators that solely measure total number or percentage of enrolled children receiving special education and related services under the IDEA.

San Marcos Daily Record

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