Access Denied: Texas Sorts Out Special Students

Special Education is Being Denied to Students

How is Texas Denying Special Education To Those In Need

We’ve been taught, and we teach our children, that all people are equal – both before laws and gods. This includes equal access to education. Saying “yes” to some and “no” to others is more than unfair, especially if we doom “special” kids and throw away the chances of their normal development as humans and professionals. The Houston Chronicle has conducted an investigation (you can see here part 1 and part 2) regarding the access of disabled kids to the education system in Texas. The investigation has included a survey of all states in the USA, a comparison between them, official records and documents as well as interviews with hundreds of experts, teachers and parents. Nowadays, Texas is the only state that has ever set a target for special education enrollment – 8.5%, which ipso facto deprives tens of thousands of students of a normal education process.

“Over a decade ago, the officials arbitrarily decided what percentage of students should get special education services — 8.5 percent — and since then they have forced school districts to comply by strictly auditing those serving too many kids.

Their efforts, which started in 2004 but have never been publicly announced or explained, have saved the Texas Education Agency billions of dollars but denied vital supports to children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, traumatic brain injuries, even blindness and deafness, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.”

Following the release of the study, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) denied having set a target of 8.5%, thus keeping tens of thousands of students out of the special education system. In addition, the agency claimed that enrollment of 8.5 percent is not a target but rather an “indicator of performance.” Do you believe them?

Why 8.5% of Special Ed?

Perhaps you have asked yourself why 8.5%. Is it a special number or a sacred one?

“The TEA also was unable to produce any records about why 8.5 percent was chosen as the target. It acknowledged in its statement that there is no research that establishes 8.5 percent as ideal.”

Four agency officials set the benchmark, former employees said: special education director Eugene Lenz; his deputies, Laura Taylor and Kathy Clayton; and accountability chief Criss Cloudt. The only one who agreed to speak with the Chronicle, Clayton, said the choice of 8.5 percent was not based on research. Instead, she said, it was driven by the statewide average special education enrollment.

Investigation findings:

  • The benchmark has limited access to special education for children with virtually every type of disability.
  • Special education rates have fallen to the lowest levels in big cities, where the needs are greatest.
  • Students who don’t speak English at home have been hurt the most. Those children currently make up 17.9 percent of all students in Texas but only 15.4 percent of those in special education.

Is there hope for Texas Special Education

Always. Initially, the US Department of Education reacted to the Chronicle’s investigation by saying that the institution would examine the case. Shortly after they took more drastic measures by ordering the TAE to remove this discriminating target.

“It is important that states carry out their responsibilities under the law to ensure that all children who are suspected of having a disability are evaluated in a timely manner to determine eligibility for special education and related services,” said the spokeswoman, Dorie Nolt. “Once we have more information from state officials, we will determine if further actions are necessary.”

Shortly after, they took more drastic measures by ordering the TAE to end these shameful and discriminating practices.

Federal law obligates all public schools to provide special education to all eligible children with disabilities. In response to the Chronicle investigation, the U.S. Department of Education on Oct. 3 ordered the TEA to end the target unless it can prove that no kids have been deprived of services.

The department also directed state officials to report back on how many districts may have denied services to students with disabilities and how they plan to “remedy the effect of such past practices.

Afterward, the TAE has agreed to stop auditing school districts that give specialized education to more than 8.5 percent of students, somehow admitting to the fact that they have tried to lower the number of “special” students. Hopefully, they have also promised to review their policies.

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