Texas concedes improper service policy for SWD

Texas concedes improper service policy for SWD

(Texas) A controversial charge two years ago from federal regulators accusing Texas education officials of improperly cutting services to students with disabilities has resulted this week in the launch of a new $85 million remediation plan.

The U.S. Department of Education ruled in 2016 that Texas was violating federal law by capping the number of students with disabilities who could receive special education services.

Although some outside experts suggested that the policy actually supported IDEA’s core tenet of inclusion and wasn’t an effort to save money, the Texas Education Agency announced this week that they will undertake a multi-phase program to improve recruitment of SWD and oversight to ensure districts are meeting the law.

“This corrective action plan provides the state of Texas the chance to make meaningful, lasting change in how we educate and support children with special needs,” said Mike Morath, Texas Education Commissioner. “We are approaching this planning process with the seriousness that it requires and hope to solicit the kind of collective feedback, support and collaboration that our students deserve as we work to earn back the trust parents place in us for their children.”

The impetus for the federal inquiry came as the result of a report in the Houston Chronicle that focused on policies of TEA that proactively encouraged districts to reduce referrals to special education.

While Texas officials and some outside the state argued that the policies were well within federal law that seek to minimize special education placements by authorizing procedures to use comprehensive research-based supports within the general education setting.

That interpretation clearly lost both on a technical level and within the arena of public opinion.

As a result, according to a release from TEA, the state will:

  • Create a suite of resources intended to be shared with the parents of children suspected of having a disability to help fully inform them of their rights to a free and appropriate public education, and accompany those resources with a large outreach effort;
  • Roll out a large scale statewide special education professional development system, including multiple opportunities for follow-up support for all educators (general education, special education, and others);
  • Require districts to provide compensatory services to those students who are found to have needed services and did not receive them; and
  • Further strengthen its staffing and resources devoted to special education, allowing for greater oversight as well as additional on-site support to local school districts.