Federal Officials Say Texas Illegally Denied Thousands Special Education Services

LA Johnson  NPR

LA Johnson NPR

The directive follows a report sent Thursday to TEA from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) regarding compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Federal education officials wrote the Texas Education Agency's decision in 2004 to use an 8.5 perceont enrollment target for schools districts resulted in the decline in enrollment.

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.

Meanwhile, Texas fired state special education director Laurie Kash in November, following her filing a federal complaint over the education agency's having awarding a now-cancelled, no-bid contract to a company tasked with analyzing student data before she was hired.

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The report concluded that Texas ran afoul of federal law by failing to locate students in need of special education, failing to ensure free public education was made available to children with disabilities and failing to adequately supervise and monitor the state's special education program.

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

OSEP launched an investigation and visited the Texas Education Agency and 12 independent school districts across the state last February, prompted by a series of reports in the Houston Chronicle which found that the state agency intentionally delayed or denied special education services to disabled students to stay below an 8.5 percent enrollment target. "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". Last year, lawmakers passed two laws created to prevent future limits on special education enrolment, though efforts to take more comprehensive steps fizzled.

Gov. Abbott has given TEA seven days to draft a corrective action plan.

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"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", said Abbott.

"I am committing today that there will be more".

Gov. Abbott also asked TEA to develop legislative recommendations to ensure school districts throughout Texas comply with the upcoming changes.

In a roundtable meeting with reporters last month, Penny Schwinn, TEA's deputy commissioner of academics, said TEA had expected to get a report from the federal government last summer - but federal officials continued to push that date back. "Since becoming Commissioner, I have worked to strengthen the supports provided to our parents and school systems", Morath said in a statement. My top priority has and continues to be to improve outcomes for all students in Texas.”.

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