Who’s to blame for the special education limits

The Lege gets a finger pointed at it.

After a federal report blasted Texas for failing kids with disabilities, educators and public education advocates are pointing the finger directly at state legislators who, they argue, first suggested capping special education to keep costs low.

The U.S. Department of Education last week released a monitoring report, after a 15-month investigation, finding that the Texas Education Agency effectively capped the statewide percentage of students who could receive special education services and incentivized school districts to deny services to eligible students. Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement soon after that criticized local school districts for their “dereliction of duty” in failing to serve students — which touched a nerve for educators.

“We weren’t derelict: the state of Texas was derelict, the Texas Education Agency was derelict,” said HD Chambers, superintendent of Alief ISD and president of the Texas School Alliance, an advocacy group. “We were following what they put in place.”

In a statement sent to TEA and Abbott on Sunday, the Texas School Alliance and school administrator groups dated the creation of a special education cap back to a 2004 Texas House Public Education Committee interim report, which surveyed how other states fund special education and which made recommendations to the Legislature for how to discourage identifying too many students with disabilities.


The committee’s report recommended the Legislature “determine what aspects of our current funding mechanism for special education encourage overidentification; and then investigate alternative methods for funding special education that decrease any incentives to overidentify students as needing special education services.”

It also recommended reducing state and local administrative costs in overseeing special education in order to direct more money to students with disabilities.

That same year, TEA implemented a system to monitor and evaluate how school districts were serving kids with disabilities. The percentage of students with disabilities served plunged from 11.6 percent in 2004 to 8.6 percent in 2016. The U.S. Department of Education found last week that the agency was more likely to intervene in school districts that provided services for more students with disabilities, incentivizing administrators to cut back on services.

Chambers was a central office administrator at Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in 2004 and recalls receiving direct and indirect instruction from the state to serve fewer students. “We were under the impression that we were out of compliance if we were identifying more than 8.5 percent of our population,” he said.

See here for past blogging on the topic, and here for the Trib story on the federal report. I will note that the Chair of the House Public Education Committee at the time of the 2004 interim report was none other then Kent Grusendorf, a man who was so anti-public education that he was basically the inspiration for (and first real victory won by) the Texas Parent PAC. So yeah, I have no trouble believing this. As to when it might get fixed, that’s a topic for November.

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6 Responses to Who’s to blame for the special education limits

  1. Greg Shaw says:

    I’m a former special education teacher. I taught in three different school districts in Harris County.
    The message I aways got from School Administration was either:
    “Glad your here. Wish we could do more to help your kids”
    “Since we HAVE to let you on our campuses, just stay out of the way. ”
    Obviously Abbott’s TEA takes the latter approach.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    I want to know what’s wrong with Texas kids that 1 in 10 is “special ed?” Is autism becoming more common? More birth defects? Is it because Texas has big numbers of undocumented immigrant children in the classroom?

    What percentage of kids were “special ed” in the 60’s? 70’s? 80’s? I’m betting it wasn’t 11.6%, or even 8.6%

  3. brad moore says:

    So what is your point Bill? People are lying? Conspiracy? Aliens? Fake news? Brown people?

    Sorry to disappoint you…probably something boring like better awareness/assessment/diagnostic abilities in the last 50 years. And unfortunately environmentally influenced impact.

  4. Ross says:

    Bill, different definitions are part of the increase, as kids with autism, ADHD, etc that were considered slow, lazy, or just uneducated now get services to help them succeed. I’m the old days, they would have left school early.

  5. Ross says:

    Uneducable was what I meant, not uneducated.

  6. Edward says:

    The Fed. never completely funded Special Education like originally planned, they just shoved the rest to fall upon the State. They penalize schools for having too many enrolled in the accountability process and now for failure to identify. In the long run, it is the Sp. Ed. kids not serviced for whatever the reason who suffer as well as the classrooms where they are placed with few services to show Least Restrictive Environment. Just imagine what it would cost to not service them at all; this is a very necessary part of public education and it sets public education apart from charter schools and vouchers for private schools.

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