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Gov. Abbott sets out to revamp special education system in Texas

13 January 2018

The fact that the Education Department under DeVos pursued this Texas investigation aggressively is taken by some as a sign that it will stand up for the rights of students with disabilities.

Many school districts used interventions in general education settings to help some children, including those with dyslexia, rather than special education services when they were suspected of having a disability, according to findings released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Subsequently, special education enrollment in the state dropped by 32,000 between the 2003-2004 and 2016-2017 school years even though the state added more than a million additional schoolchildren over the same period.

That draft will be shared with representatives of parent groups, special education advocacy groups, administrators and educators across Texas.

Texas may have been the only state to set a black-and-white target, but the number of students in special education varies around the country, and so does the quality of funding and services.

Abbott wrote "such failures are not acceptable" and gave the TEA seven days to prepare a corrective action plan.

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The federal investigation was prompted by a massive report from the Houston Chronicle in 2016. This is not always true, researchers have found, and poor districts may end up with both more special education students and less total money to spend on them. In several states, school voucher programs are targeted at special education students. Abbott, though, demanded that the state education agency produce by next week "an initial corrective action plan" to fully revamp special education. "Far too many students in Texas had been precluded from receiving supports and services".

Abbott also wants Morath's agency to suggest longer-term solutions that the state Legislature can discuss.

Abbott also requested the agency send him legislative recommendations for ensuring school districts are complying with all federal and state special education laws.

During its investigation, OSEP found that some school districts took actions specifically created to decrease the percentage of students identified as children with disabilities in order to comply with the cap.

The Chronicle reported that the practice of denying and delaying special education lasted for more than a decade, starting in 2004.

Meanwhile, Texas fired state special education director Laurie Kash in November, following her filing a federal complaint over the education agency's having awarding a now-cancelled, no-bid contract to a company tasked with analyzing student data before she was hired. The state passed legislation past year that prohibits such targets. Yet private schools under the law do not have to provide a free, appropriate public education, so if special education students are getting vouchers they may be giving up some of their federal rights.

Gov. Abbott sets out to revamp special education system in Texas