Texas needs to closely monitor a representative sample of school districts to make sure they’re appropriately serving students with disabilities, one of a slate of requirements the federal government is placing on the state after it was found to be suppressing the number of children enrolled in special education.
A 2016 investigation by the Houston Chronicle revealed that special education enrollment in Texas had been declining for years, driven by districts’ efforts to meet a state enrollment benchmark of 8.5 percent. The federal office of special education programs found Texas in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act in January, after conducting its own investigation and holding a listening tour around the state.
Back in April, Texas outlined a number of fixes it planned to make to address the problem. In an response dated October 19, the federal government said that it wanted the state to take some additional corrective actions, and that a monitoring team plans to visit early next year to check on the state’s progress.
In addition to closely monitoring special education procedures at a sample of districts, Texas must submit its revised monitoring protocols for federal review and feedback; ensure that special education information is available to parents in their native languages; and provide documentation that hearing officers and mediators have been trained in appropriate procedures.
In the aggregate, the letter suggests that OSEP plans to be taking a close and continuing look at Texas’s special education services.
In a statement, state education chief Mike Morath said the state is already making “significant progress” in carrying out its special education strategic plan.
“We continue to adhere to a commitment to transparency and engagement throughout the plan’s implementation,” he said.
Special education enrollment in Texas has now risen to about 9.2 percent of students, higher than the recent past but still below the national average of about 13 percent. Texas may need to find an additional $3.3 billion over the next three years in order to pay for additional special education services, the Houston Chronicle has reported.
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Special Education blog.