The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has found that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) has kept at least 32,000 students from getting the special education services they need. In a letter sent to TEA on January 11, ED said the state’s practices violate , the U.S. special education law.
In 2004, TEA decided to put a cap on services. It set a target of 8.5 percent as the maximum percentage of students to receive special education services. But under IDEA, states must help all students who are identified as needing special education. (Across the U.S., 13 percent of students get special education services.)
News of the cap broke in October 2016. The story prompted an outcry from parents, advocates and teachers. It also began a 15-month-long investigation by ED.
ED’s letter shows the investigation found that TEA failed to follow the law in three ways:
- It didn’t follow Child Find procedures and failed to ensure that all children with disabilities were identified, located and evaluated.
- It didn’t make sure that all students who needed special education services were provided with the they’re entitled to.
- It didn’t adequately monitor school districts to make sure Child Find and FAPE requirements were being met.
“The findings are significant and disturbing,” says Lindsay Jones, vice president and chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD).
“We are gratified to see such a thorough and careful investigation in Texas by the U.S. Department of Education,” Jones adds. “The key question now is, how will Texas right this wrong?”
Gov. Greg Abbott has asked for Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath to have a draft of “an initial corrective action plan” ready within the next week.
Update (January 19, 2018): Texas has drafted a corrective action plan to address its violation of special education law.
Are you concerned your child may not be getting the services he needs? Learn the steps to take if the IEP eligibility meeting doesn’t work out as expected. And explore responses you can use if the school cuts or denies your child services.
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About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.