Straus asks TEA to suspend use of special education enrollment target

Oct 26, 2016 by

AUSTIN — Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday asked the Texas Education Agency to immediately stop penalizing school districts for providing specialized education services to more than 8.5 percent of students.

In a letter to Education Commissioner Mike Morath, Straus urged the TEA to suspend the use of the benchmark while the agency conducts an in-depth review and the Legislature decides how to address evidence that the policy has led schools to keep tens of thousands of children with disabilities out of critical services.

Related: SpecialEdAdvocate.org

Denied is a Houston Chronicle investigation into Texas’ special education enrollment target, which has kept tens of thousands of disabled kids from receiving services and prompted federal action. Click here to read how one Texas school district pushed students out of special education to meet the state limit and the impact on families with autistic children on our subscriber website, HoustonChronicle.com.

HoustonChronicle.com: Schools push students out of special education to meet state limit

“It will be a priority for the Texas House to make special education services available to all students who need them, while also ensuring that schools do not identify students for special education when it isn’t appropriate. The House will work with TEA to find the right balance,” Straus wrote. “But in the meantime, students should not be denied the services they need.”

“I urge you, immediately,” the San Antonio Republican continued, “to either make significant changes to the specific indicator in the monitoring system that is being cited as a reason schools are denying needed services to students, or to suspend use of this indicator in the monitoring system until the Legislature and the agency can come up with a more lasting solution.”

READ MORE: Patrick expresses concern over Texas’ special ed efforts

The letter came three days after the Houston Chronicle reported that some schools had removed children with disabilities out of needed services in order to comply with the arbitrary target.

The Chronicle first revealed the policy last month, reporting the TEA quietly implemented it in 2004 without consulting state lawmakers, the federal government or any research while facing a $1.1 billion state budget cut.

READ MORE: School official fights to restore special ed for autistic son

In the years since, the percentage of students getting services has plummeted from near the national average of 13 percent down to exactly 8.5 percent. That is the lowest rate of any state in the country — by far.

In response to the Chronicle investigation, the U.S. Department of Education already has ordered the TEA to end the benchmark unless it can prove that no children with disabilities have been denied services. The state has until next week to respond.

Source: Straus asks TEA to suspend use of special education enrollment target

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