Feds condemn Texas’ special ed cap, demand remedies

A February investigation by the federal Office of Special Education into special education enrollment in Texas showed the Texas Education Agency didn’t provide therapy, tutoring and counseling to tens of thousands of eligible children, according to a report published last Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Education’s OSEP visited school districts in Texas during the week of Feb. 27, 2017 after reports of the declining identification rate in Texas of children with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). While Graham ISD is not one of the campuses that was visited during the investigation, Graham ISD Superintendent Sonny Cruse spoke at the school board meeting Wednesday about the results.

In 2004, Texas set a maximum target of 8.5 percent of students for which districts should provide special education. The actual amount of students receiving such services in 2004 was 11.6 percent.

The federal Department of Education said that decision, which penalized school districts for exceeding that amount, violated federal laws requiring schools to serve all students with disabilities. The 8.5 percent target was eliminated last year.

“Basically, Texas got their hands slapped by the Feds, so … the governor (Greg Abbott) slaps off a letter basically blaming educators, (saying) this is all your fault, you are not serving kids appropriately, and of course, then he issues an edict to the Commissioner of Education (Mike Morath) to write a corrective action plan with seven days,” he said.

“We are within that seven-day period right now and we are real close to the end of it and haven’t seen anything from TEA yet, but the bottom line for school districts – and here is what we don’t know yet – (is that) even though in my opinion it all happened at the state level, everything flows downhill and we are at the bottom of the hill and we will receive the consequences of this, so we will see where this goes.”

However, the TEA released a first draft of the plan on Thursday on their website and will be accepting public comments via email through Feb. 18.

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