Department Of Education Finds Texas Violated Special Education Law

Department Of Education Finds Texas Violated Special Education Law

In a letter to the Texas Education Agency, which oversees education in the state, regulators from the federal Department of Education said the state agency's decision to set a "target" for the maximum percentage of students who should receive special education services had violated federal laws requiring schools to serve all students with disabilities.

Subsequently, special education enrollment in the state dropped by 32,000 between the 2003-2004 and 2016-2017 school years even though the state added more than a million additional schoolchildren over the same period.

Many school districts subjected their students to interventions, including those with dyslexia, in a general education environment rather than provide them with services when they were suspected of having a disability, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Education.

But the federal investigation found that the indicator, put in place in 2004, instead triggered a massive decline in special education as schools tried to stay under that indicator to avoid state scrutiny. "Far too many students in Texas had been precluded from receiving supports and services under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)".

To avoid being penalized by the TEA for exceeding the 8.5 percent benchmark, Texas school districts "took actions created to decrease" the number of students who received special education services, according to the federal report.

"Every child with a disability must have appropriate access to special education and related services that meet his or her unique needs", said Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement.

Federal officials noted that Texas has already taken some steps to address the problems, including doing away with the 8.5 percent benchmark, but said more work remains to ensure the state is in full compliance with IDEA.

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Once the plan is completed, Abbott will share it with parent group leaders, special education advocacy groups and education administrations across the state.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday directed Morath to draft a "corrective action plan" within the next seven days.

"The past dereliction of duty on the part of many school districts to serve our students and the failure of TEA to hold districts accountable are worthy of criticism", Abbott said in the letter.

Gov. Abbott also asked TEA to develop legislative recommendations to ensure school districts throughout Texas comply with the upcoming changes. For example, we have added significant resources focused on increasing technical assistance and training for our school systems, including 39 statewide special education support staff in the previous year. "The project was planned by a mission-driven team, dedicated to helping improve outcomes for our special education students".

The monitoring report received by TEA today was issued following a listening tour by federal officials past year.

Texas now lacks both a special education director and a long-term plan for overhauling special education, leaving parents and advocates frustrated and concerned.

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