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TEA will review special ed limits

It’s a start.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath said Wednesday that his office is reviewing a monitoring system that sets an 8.5 percent benchmark for special education enrollments and strictly audits school districts with enrollments that exceed that rate for students with disabilities.

The Chronicle reported Sunday that TEA officials had arbitrarily selected the 8.5 percent rate in implementing the system a decade ago. Since then, Texas’ special education enrollment has declined from 12 percent in 2004 to exactly 8.5 percent in 2015, by far the lowest in America.

“The Texas Education Agency is committed to conducting a detailed review of this monitoring system and how it impacts Texas students,” Morath said in a statement. “The agency will continue to convene special education advisory groups for feedback and guidance on all aspects of special education policy, as it has for years as part of its annual public rulemaking processes.”

Asked about the Chronicle’s findings at a meeting of the State Board of Education, Morath said that “we’re assessing the detailed list of statements to determine what the real impact is. … It’s a topic of high priority here.”

See here and here for the background. I might suggest that Commissioner Morath begin by speaking to his predecessors, since at least one of them had to have known all about this. It would also be nice to hear what Morath thinks the policy should be, in broad strokes if not in detail. Promising a review is not the same as promising a change. What might we expect to happen when that review has been completed?

But at least Commissioner Morath has acknowledged the issue and is doing something about it. That’s more than we can say for Greg Abbott or Dan Patrick. Thankfully, the third leg of the state leadership stool has now also acknowledged the issue.

House Speaker Joe Straus said Thursday he would work with the Texas Education Agency to address concerns about a monitoring system that has led school districts to keep thousands of children with disabilities out of special education.

“Students who need special education should not be kept out of it,” Straus said in a Facebook post, which indicated his office had delivered the same message to Education Commissioner Mike Morath. “The House appreciates the Commissioner’s attention to this issue and will work with him to address these concerns,” added Straus, R-San Antonio.


Several lawmakers, officials, teachers and advocates have expressed outrage at the target, saying it has deprived tens of thousands of disabled children an adequate education.

The Texas Education Agency has denied depriving any students of proper instruction and defended the monitoring system but promised to conduct a “detailed review” of its impact.

In his statement, Straus said the monitoring system was “designed to prevent schools from identifying students for special education when it isn’t necessary.”

However, he stressed “the importance of providing services to all students who need them while continuing to make sure that students are not improperly identified for special education.”

Straus’s legislative district is in the North East ISD, which serves northeastern San Antonio and is the second largest district in Texas’ second largest city. Its special ed enrollment has dropped from 15.3 percent in 2004 to 9.2 percent today, a 40 percent decline that is the biggest among Texas’ largest school districts.

Good for Speaker Straus. Note that his statement does include a statement of what the policy should be. It doesn’t actually promise any changes, either, but it does provide a basis for comparison with the review we’re getting. Still waiting on Abbott and Patrick, who have had the time to talk about plenty of other things in the past week, to say something about this. One might get the impression it’s not that important to them, since if it were they would have said something about it by now.

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One Comment

  1. Chad Smith says:

    What about schools like mine (Credit Recovery) who must take students who are behind in credits and are Special Education? Our numbers could be much higher than 8.5%!!