Texas to Remove Special Education Cap
by Andy Jones
March 17, 2017
In a victory for disability rights advocates, the Texas Education Agency will remove a policy that prevented an estimated hundreds of thousands of students with disabilities from receiving special education services.
In 2004, the TEA implemented an 8.5 percent cap on the number of students receiving special education services in its schools.
Disability Rights Texas uncovered the benchmark and forwarded its findings to the Department of Education in 2014, as later publicized by the Houston Chronicle in a series of investigative reports in September 2016.
Disability Rights Texas and the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities held a press conference March 6 [PDF], announcing that TEA informed them in a letter that it would remove the cap.
The move comes five months after the DOE issued a warning to the agency [PDF]and two months after the two organizations wrote a letter to the TEA, threatening to file a lawsuit if action was not taken.
Also at the press conference, the advocates announced support for legislation that would reform the Texas Education Code to bar any future cap and create new data reporting requirements to prevent such actions in the future.
"I fully support all the legislation moving forward to make sure this doesn't happen again,” State Rep. Gene Wu told KVUE. “But I'm still very concerned about looking backwards to why this happened in the first place.
“I would ask that the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House form committees to look at (a) joint investigation to figure out how a quarter of a million Texas schoolchildren were wrongfully and legally discriminated against. We need to know. We need to know whose idea was this, who approved it, who knew - but didn't say anything.”
Nationwide, the percentage of students receiving special education services is about 13 percent. Texas’ rate is the lowest in the country.
Disability Rights Texas and Disability Rights Washington are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Texas and Washington, respectively, and are members of the National Disability Rights Network.