Sadly, it has taken a media investigation and a federal government inquiry to reverse the Texas’ unlawful practice of capping the number of disabled students who receive educational services.
The good news — there’s a plan for reversing the neglect and providing needed assistance to children with mental illness, physical impairments, brain injuries and other learning disabilities.
According to the Chronicle’s investigation, the TEA set a target of 8.5 percent for the number of students included in a district’s special education program. The national average for children receiving special education help is about 13.5 percent.
A cap for special education services violates the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). So federal officials stepped in.
The Office of Special Education Programs monitored the Texas Education Agency and twelve state school districts early last year and determined “that TEA did not ensure that all ISDs in the State properly identified, located, and evaluated all children with disabilities residing in the State who were in need of special education and related services.”
In a monitoring report published this month, the federal government said some of the school districts “took action specifically designed to decrease the identification of children for special education and related services under the IDEA when TEA indicated that ISD’s rate exceeded 8.5 percent.”
When the U.S. Department of Education told the TEA it had violated federal law, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the agency to come up with a plan.
The TEA has responded by promising to create teams that will begin inspecting public school campuses in 2019 to ensure disabled children are being properly served.
The state will contract with companies to identify students not receiving proper services and inform parents of their children’s rights.
Parents and special education experts will be included in the monitoring process.
The public can weigh in on the TEA plan through Feb. 18. There will be other opportunities for citizen participation as the monitoring plan is revised.
It’s unfortunate that so many kids were denied the education they needed, but it is heartening to see such strides being taken. An increase in staff and the new monitoring process will cost the state an estimated $85.4 million over about six years.
Gov. Greg Abbott has demanded the special education inequality be resolved. Now he needs to make sure lawmakers agree to foot the bill.