TX: Houston Chronicle 2016 investigation on SPED cap; what was happening?

Aug 10, 2018, Houston Chronicle: Explainer: Texas was educating 30% fewer special-ed kids Here's how we figured out why A 2016 Houston Chronicle investigation found that state officials quietly devised a system that kept thousands of disabled kids out of special education who should have qualified for services. The denials were prompted by pressure from the state to keep the concentration of special education students to no more than 8.5 percent of all students. The efforts to keep down the special education population, which started in 2004 but were never publicly announced or explained, 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, the investigation found. … Are fewer Texas babies being born with disabilities? There's no evidence showing this. In fact, available metrics suggest the opposite. … Have innovative new teaching techniques reduced the need for special education? This is the Texas Education Agency's explanation, and so to evaluate it thoroughly, the Chronicle brought it to Douglas Fuchs, a Vanderbilt University professor who played a leading role in developing the techniques at issue, known as "Response to Intervention." Fuchs said the techniques are being used nationwide and haven't lowered special ed rates anywhere else. "RTI has not reduced the number of kids requiring special ed," he said. (The numbers bear that out: The states that have passed laws implementing RTI actually serve a higher percentage of kids in special ed than states that have not passed such laws, according to a Chronicle data analysis). Fuchs also said he doubted the state's explanation because, he said, if the techniques had reduced the need for special ed, they also would've improved test scores. The scores of Texas students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have slumped over the past decade. Finally, Fuchs and others said that even phenomenally successful use of the techniques could only explain a decline in learning disabilities, which is only one part of the drop in Texas children getting special ed services. The portion of the special ed population that is receiving services for learning disabilities is actually higher than the national average, suggesting that the problem actually lies elsewhere.