Special Education

Texas Curbs Spec. Ed. Enrollment Benchmark

By The Associated Press — November 29, 2016 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Texas Education Agency has told schools that they must provide services to all eligible students with disabilities and that they won’t be penalized for serving too many children, after the U.S. Department of Education ordered the state agency to end an 8.5 percent benchmark on special education enrollment.

The Houston Chronicle previously reported that schools began denying special education services to students after the state imposed the benchmark in 2004.

In a five-page letter, Penny Schwinn, the TEA’s deputy commissioner of academics, told schools that the agency eventually would end the benchmark. Schwinn also wrote that effective immediately, exceeding the 8.5 percent target would not “adversely affect” district performance levels or determinations about whether districts are audited.

But Schwinn also defended the policy, maintaining that it was not a “cap” on enrollment and did not seriously punish districts for failing to comply.

“It has been alleged that some school district personnel and others may have interpreted the [benchmark] to mean that districts are required to achieve a special education enrollment rate of no more than 8.5 percent,” she wrote. “This interpretation is incorrect."The letter followed through on a promise to the Education Department, which last month ordered the TEA to end the enrollment target and remind schools about the requirement to provide special education services to all children with disabilities.

Federal Order

The federal department’s involvement was prompted by an investigation by the newspaper that revealed the target and showed that the TEA had quietly implemented it while facing a $1.1 billion state budget cut and without consulting state lawmakers, federal officials, or any research.

No other state has ever set a target for special education enrollment.

Since the Texas policy took effect, the percentage of public school students in the state receiving services dropped from near the national average of 13 percent down to 8.5 percent—the lowest in the country.

Dustin Rynders of Disability Rights Texas accused the TEA of having no credibility on the issue because it “keeps trying to sell its preposterous story that the 8.5 percent indicator was not a cap or a goal ... while offering no explanation for why they awarded their best performance level to districts that served fewer than 8.5 percent of students.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Budget & Finance Webinar
Innovative Funding Models: A Deep Dive into Public-Private Partnerships
Discover how innovative funding models drive educational projects forward. Join us for insights into effective PPP implementation.
Content provided by Follett Learning
Budget & Finance Webinar Staffing Schools After ESSER: What School and District Leaders Need to Know
Join our newsroom for insights on investing in critical student support positions as pandemic funds expire.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Achievement Webinar
How can districts build sustainable tutoring models before the money runs out?
District leaders, low on funds, must decide: broad support for all or deep interventions for few? Let's discuss maximizing tutoring resources.
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education Explainer A Guide to Special Education Terms
The number of students in special education has increased steadily in the last four decades. Here are some of the common terms used.
7 min read
Glossary abstract concept open book with special education iconography
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + iStock/Getty Images
Special Education The Pros and Cons of AI in Special Education
AI can make special educators' jobs easier by handling paperwork and serving as an adaptive tool. But there are privacy and other concerns.
9 min read
Student being assisted by AI
Nicole Xu for Education Week
Special Education From Our Research Center What Happens for High Schoolers Who Need More Than 4 Years?
Districts work to serve older students longer than four years to plan for a changing career world.
6 min read
Older student facing the city, younger version is being swept away.
Nicole Xu for Education Week
Special Education These Grants Could Help Students With Disabilities Access Jobs, Training
The Ed. Dept. is investing $236 million to help with transitions to careers and post-secondary education.
3 min read
Collage of a woman in a wheelchair on a road leading to a large dollar sign. In the woman's hair is a ghosted photo of hands on a laptop.
Collage by Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty