The Houston Chronicle investigated special education in Texas schools and found it lacking.
The paper reported the Texas Education Agency has a seemingly arbitrary limit on the number of students who can be in special education.
The TEA calls it an “indicator,” one “that reports the percentage of students with disabilities in a district,” in its response to the Houston Chronicle’s findings.
“Indicator” or not — it is can be treated like a cap, and some students are not getting the education they need.
The Houston paper gave a loose approximation of 15.4 percent of Texas students who need special education. The “indicator” limits it to 8.5 percent.
The agency created a Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System in 2004. It calculated that for a district to have the best performance scores, students in special education should be no more than 8.5 percent of the total enrollment.
The system was implemented after the TEA had a budget cut of more than $1 billion.
In contrast, federal officials passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in 2004 to strengthen the quality of special education nationwide.
“Since the enactment and implementation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, this title has been successful in ensuring children with disabilities … access to a free appropriate public education … however, the implementation of this title has been impeded by low expectations,” says the document.
The 2004 act sought to correct this, creating a legislative path to build improved effort into the programs, so “special education can become a service for such children rather than a place where such children are sent.”
Students with disabilities are usually the ones needing specialized attention, and the 2004 act makes sure these students have opportunities comparable to students without disabilities.
TEA’s methods seem to be hindering this process.
The number of special education students has dropped steadily since 2004, while students are being rerouted to alternative programs.
These findings are troubling, but there is a silver lining. House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said he would work with Education Commissioner Mike Morath on addressing this concern.
He can give the issue the special attention it deserves.