Even though the New Year has come, there is unfinished business from the already gone 2016. We are continuing our posts on an investigation conducted by the Houston Chronicle. It found that in Texas there is an 8.5% cap to special education students, which is leading to their dropping out of the education system. So far we know that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) denied having restricted special kids from attending normal schools. However, following the release of the investigation’s results, the US Department of Education reacted and ordered the TAE to end these practices. After that, the institution agreed to stop auditing schools which give access to more than 8.5% students with special needs.
In our second article, we shared the story of a 16-year-old boy whose life was in danger twice because he was denied the rights he had by law – counseling and/or special education services. In our first article we laid out the larger problem that Texas is having with Special Education.. For immigrants or students who need special education and whose native language isn’t English things are even worse.
Just 39 of the nearly 1,000 English Language Learners here receive services like tutoring, counseling and speech therapy, 70 percent fewer per capita than a decade ago. From Beaumont to El Paso, school districts facing pressure to lower their special education numbers have decided to do it by shutting out thousands of English Language Learners, the Houston Chronicle has found.
If English Language Learners were in special education at the same rate as they were in 2004, about 40,000 more of them would now be receiving those services. The numbers are troubling. What’s more, this is unfair and discriminatory. Gary Orfield, co-founder and director of the Civil Rights Project commented:
“Even if the policy was not meant to be discriminatory, it has clearly had that effect.
If schools are creating systems in which students are not getting services simply because of the language they speak, that’s discrimination.”
While the TAE refused to comment this particular case, the US Department of Education expressed its concerns about the low number of international students in the special education system.
Even though federal law requires schools to provide both language and special ed services, many school districts have done everything to lower the number of international students who have access to special ed.
Dozens of current and former educators said they were made to attend trainings in which they were told that the TEA had concluded they were over-identifying English learners. At the trainings, the educators said they were told to assume struggles of English learners were the result of language issues and to request special ed evaluations only for failures lasting months or years.
The Houston Chronicle has even found that there are districts in Texas that does not provide special ed services at all.
Austin ISD’s International High School, a new campus for foreign newcomers, had just one special ed student among its 368 kids and no special ed teachers in the 2014-15 year, state data shows. Similar dynamics now exist in many schools. Houston ISD’s Las Americas school only evaluated one of its 144 students for special education last year, according to the district.
In Austin, four current and former International High School employees blamed the TEA benchmark for the lack of services, saying administrators have blocked their school’s students from special ed to help keep the district’s overall numbers low. Peggy Robinson, who retired from Austin district two years ago, commented that the district made it hard for special kids to enroll in special education, adding that the target set by the TAE is the reason for this.
One decision, hundreds of thousands stories and rejections.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.