To reduce costs Texas officials slash special education enrollment


To reduce costs Texas officials slash special education enrollment

Todd Thompson

3 February 2018

The drop in the percentage of Texas public school students receiving access to special education services has been so stark that it has brought a warning from the US Department of Education.

On January 11, 2018, the federal education department issued a letter to Commissioner Mike Morath of the Texas Education Agency (TEA), stating that the 32,000 drop in the number of students receiving special education between 2003 and 2016 is “noteworthy.” The drop comes even though the student population in Texas public schools increased by more than 1 million, bringing it to 5,359,127—a number larger than the population of 23 states.

On the basis of a yearlong investigation, the DOE’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) found that the TEA failed “to ensure that all children … in need of special education…were identified, located and evaluated,” “to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) was made available to all children,” and that the state’s school districts lived up to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

In the school year of 2003-04, the state provided special education to 11.6 percent of its students, already one of the nation’s lowest percentages. Now, according to data gathered as part of a 2016 expose by the Houston Chronicle, only 8.6 percent of Texas school children have access to special education programs, the lowest level in the country. Basing itself on national averages, the Chronicle estimates the number of students affected by TEA’s failure is 250,000, many of whom may be entitled to compensatory education or tuition reimbursement.

It is even worse in large Texan cities. In 2016, Houston provided…

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