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Education News

Texas Officials Deny Any Cap On Special Education In Letter To Feds

It’s not clear when the feds will respond. But in Austin, some state lawmakers are already gearing up to address the issue.

Special Education
Texas officials denied they imposed any cap on special education in a letter to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Texas Education Agency told federal authorities that it never created a cap on how many children with disabilities could receive special education services.

At the same time, the state’s Deputy Commissioner of Academics Penny Schwinn said that the state will add new changes to clarify rules for districts, citing “recent confusion” over the special education indicator.

The letter was sent after federal authorities ordered Texas last month to end its arbitrary benchmark for special ed, unless Texas could show no children have been denied needed services.

The state agency’s strong denial of any cap stands in sharp contrast to a major investigation by the Houston Chronicle. It revealed that state officials could have set an arbitrary benchmark at 8.5 percent for special ed. Since then, special ed enrollment in Texas schools has plummeted. The state now has lowest percentage of kids in special education in the country. The national average is higher at 13 percent.

In the letter to the U.S. Department of Education, Texas officials defended the data-monitoring system that allowed them to keep tabs on districts and their special ed enrollment. They also denied that the goal was to cut back on services for children with autism, mental illness and other disabilities in order to save money.

Federal law says children with disabilities are entitled to a free and appropriate education.

It's not clear when the feds will respond.

“The Education Department will carefully review the state's response and, after the review is concluded, determine appropriate next steps," said Jessica Allen, assistant press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education.

In Austin, some state lawmakers are already gearing up to address the issue. Speaker of the House, Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, has called for an immediate overhaul of special education in Texas.