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TEXAS: Illegal cap on SPED at 8.5 since 2004; "services in 'grave' shape"

Sept 10, 2018, Houston Chronicle: Panel: State of special education still “grave” in Houston ISD https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Panel-State-of-special-education-still-13219143.php Houston ISD’s quality of special education services remains in “grave” shape due to inadequate staffing, confusion among employees and a lack of accountability, according to a district-appointed committee reviewing the quality of programs provided to students with disabilities. In a draft report expected to be presented to HISD trustees Thursday, members of the district’s Special Education Ad-Hoc Committee said the district needs to better address its many shortcomings and school board members should provide more oversight of efforts to improve delivery of special education services. The committee, comprised of district leaders, special education experts and HISD parents, has been meeting since February 2017, in response to a Houston Chronicle investigation that found a years-long pattern of Texas school districts — including HISD — denying access to special education services. … The nonprofit found HISD needed more staff members dedicated to special education, better clarity about delivering services to students and clearer systems for carrying out essential programs for students with disabilities, among other areas of improvement…. “It’s going to take years of persistence and commitment to special education to get the district to where we want it to be,” said HISD Trustee Anne Sung, who chaired the committee…. Houston ISD trustees appointed the ad-hoc committee amid a statewide reckoning over special education in Texas schools. In 2016, the Chronicle detailed how Texas education officials effectively had capped the percentage of students who should receive special education services at 8.5 percent. The national average was about 12 to 13 percent, with a few large, urban school district exceeding 20 percent. [THIS WAS DONE IN 2004 under Governor Perry.] The move resulted in thousands of children with disabilities — including those with autism, dyslexia and mental illnesses — being denied essential services. Federal investigators confirmed in January that the arbitrary 8.5-percent target led school districts to delay or deny special education services to students who qualified for them. Texas Education Agency officials have said the state needs to spend an additional $3.2 billion on special education in the next three years to meet national standards. State officials said school districts likely will need to hire thousands of new special education teachers in the next few years, which could prove challenging, given nationwide educator shortages. …