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Texas schools illegally denied special education to students

13 January 2018

A U.S. Department of Education investigation says that Texas has violated federal law by failing to ensure students with disabilities were properly evaluated and provided with an adequate public education.

The target, enacted in 2004 and eliminated previous year, was set at 8.5 percent of enrollment, and school districts were penalized for exceeding that benchmark, even though the state and national averages had both always been about 12 percent.

Now, federal officials are ordering the state to identify children who were not appropriately served and do right by them, among other steps. As a direct result of the policy, regulators determined, the share of students receiving special education services in Texas dropped from 11.6 percent in 2004 to 8.6 percent in 2016 - a difference of about 150,000 children. Across the country, 13 percent of students, on average, are identified as needing special education - in some states, more. The Chronicle revealed that many school districts delayed or denied services to special education students to meet an agency benchmark of capping their enrollment in the systems at 8.5 percent of the student population.

The agency found TEA effectively capped the number of students who could receive special education services, failing to ensure that free and appropriate public education was made available to all children with disabilities.

The Department of Education released its report Thursday after investigating the Texas Education Agency over the past year. "Far too many students in Texas had been precluded from receiving supports and services under" federal special education laws.

While federal officials have provided no definitive timeline for TEA, Abbott has called for an initial corrective action plan draft within the next seven days.

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

"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 wrote.

Also, federal law mandates that states have advisory committees on special education, but Texas' languished for months because of a high number of vacancies.

The monitoring report received by TEA today was issued following a listening tour by federal officials past year. "I don't expect we would issue a statement in this regard".

"My top priority has and continues to be to improve outcomes for all students in Texas", Morath said.

In addition, several states, including California, Massachussetts and New Jersey, use a census-based funding system, which assumes special education students are distributed uniformly across districts.

Texas schools illegally denied special education to students