Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, wrote a letter to the Texas Education Agency this week over concerns that Texas is denying tens of thousands of kids from special education programs they need as a cost cutting measure.
The shocking numbers were first revealed last month by a Houston Chronicle investigation. The investigation found that the state adopted a policy in 2004 that set an 8.5 percent target for Texas school children receiving special-ed services. That’s the lowest percentage in the country.
“The Members of the Texas House continue to be concerned that school districts are excluding students from needed special education services,” Straus said in his letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, “because those districts are trying to comply with the Texas Education Agency’s monitoring system.”
Straus urged the agency to immediately suspend or adjust its benchmark system, saying that this issue will be “a priority for the Texas House” next legislative session.
“The legislative session begins in January and it lasts several months,” Jason Embry, a spokesperson for Speaker Straus said, “and so what Speaker Straus is asking is can TEA revisit this rule now, stop using it now, or change it significantly so that kids aren’t adversely impacted between now and when the legislature can act.”
The TEA did not want to comment on camera, but told us they did receive the letter.
“TEA is working with special education advisory groups for feedback and guidance on all aspects of special education policy,” Lauren Callahan, an information specialist with the TEA said in an email statement. “Commissioner Morath continues to discuss this specific issue with parents and educators throughout the state. He is committed to ensuring those students who qualify for special education services get them.”