TEA releases special education draft plan
The Texas Education Agency recently released a plan to improve special education services in compliance with a federal monitoring report.
According to a news release, Education Commissioner Mike Morath said that this plan is a first draft, which may be revised after public comment. TEA will seek input from special education students, families, educators, advocacy groups, and school officials over the next two months before coming up with a final plan.
“This corrective action plan provides the state of Texas the chance to make meaningful, lasting change in how we educate and support children with special needs,” Morath said in the release.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education released a report stating that the state of Texas had illegally denied special education services to students in need of them by putting an arbitrary cap on the number of students that could enroll in such programs.
Belton Independent School District Superintendent Susan Kincannon said that it is too early to tell how this new plan will affect local schools.
“We are committed to following federal special education laws,” Kincannon said. “While it’s too early to interpret the impact of the state’s plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, we are open to additional guidance, support and resources that may be provided.”
In Temple Independent School District, Superintendent Robin Battershell said that at one time, Texas’ policy was in agreement with the federal government.
“Public schools are required to provide a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE),” Battershell said. “Although the definition of FAPE remains basically the same, it is subject to interpretation. Interpretation is driven by law and those that are making law are elected officials.”
Battershell said that that interpretation has shifted politically.
“In 2001, Washington enacted No Child Left Behind with a very narrow interpretation of FAPE based upon a 2 percent special education enrollment cap,” she said.
The 8 percent enrollment cap in Texas, Battershell said, followed this federal policy trend.
“Since that time, the interpretation of FAPE at the federal level has significantly broadened thus Texas is now required to do the same,” she said. “No one wants to take responsibility for the caps, but they existed at both the federal and state levels.”
Actions outlined in the draft plan include:
- Creating a suite of resources for parents of children with disabilities that informs them of their rights to a public education appropriate for their needs
- A statewide special-education professional development system, with multiple opportunities for follow-up support
- Compensatory services for students who have needed school services but did not receive them
- Additional staffing for special education services at the TEA
To view the plan and learn how to comment, visit https://tea.texas.gov/TexasSPED. After the public comment period, a revised plan will be released around March 1.