In September, the Houston Chronicle revealed a shocking report concerning Texas schools: special education for kids with special needs is cut off after a peremptory 8.5% enrollment. This means thousands of special needs kids, including many with cerebral palsy, are being denied an education that suits their individual needs.
The Houston Chronicle reported that the state of Texas, although one of the biggest states in the nations, has the lowest special needs enrollment rate throughout the entire U.S. Around 12 years ago, the state implemented a rule that required districts to cut off enrollment into special needs classes once it hit 8.5%. Nationally, around 13.5% children in each state are enrolled in special education programs.
Shortly after the investigation went public, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus spoke out about the issue, and said that the state is working with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in order to “find the right balance.” He indicated that the cap was put into place decades ago by a former education commissioner.
The matter is still under investigation, but in the meantime, numerous special needs kids are being mainstreamed into classes that don’t focus of their special needs. Straus urged the state agency’s investigation to make sure all kids are getting the type of education they require.
“But in the meantime, students should not be denied the services they need. I urge you, immediately, to either make significant changes to the specific indicator in the monitoring system that is being cited as a reason school are denying needed services to students, or to suspend use of this indicator in the monitoring system until the Legislature and the agency can come up with a more lasting solution.”
According to the Houston Chronicle‘s in-depth investigative piece:
-Teachers are pushed to redirect special needs kids into different programs; programs that may not satisfy their requirements.
-School districts make enrolling into a special education program extremely difficult by multiple meetings and follow ups with parents.
-The TEA claims that their “early intervention programs” and new teaching techniques are why there are less special needs classes.
-Roughly 25,000 students may not be getting a quality education because their special needs are not being met.
-In 2007, the Laredo Independent School District discharged more than 700 students from the special education program, and placed them into regular education.
“But if a child is moved just to meet some arbitrary number, that’s the type of thing that can affect a child’s entire educational career and entire life. That needs to stop immediately,” said former Deputy Secretary of Education Frank Holleman.
The investigation uncovered that the TEA started changing the special needs program when they received a $1 billion budget cut. But they made the change quietly, and reportedly didn’t bother to consult with the federal government or any state lawmakers. The TEA now says it will “conduct a detailed review” of the specials needs program, but so far there hasn’t been a change.
In the meantime, numerous parents have been fighting for better rights for the children, but their petitions and requests often go ignored. Special education professionals also felt the sting of it, especially when some were reportedly told to lie to parents and tell them their kids didn’t need special education classes.
“I was told to go into all these meetings with parents of kids with different disabilities and tell them, ‘Oh, Johnny is doing so much better. So we want to try him in general education, and of course we’ll give him support,” said Christine Damiani, a retired special education chair. “None of it was true.”
Michael Crighton, a child who was in an autism program, occupational therapy, and speech therapy during preschool, was denied special education services when he enrolled in Kindergarten. According to his parents, the school informed them that Michael “was cured of autism.” Instead of allowing the little boy to enroll into the special needs program, they moved his desk by the teacher in a regular education classroom.
“It was a disaster. A complete disaster,” Michael’s mother, Lisa Odom, told the Houston Chronicle. “The seating was a joke because he usually hid under his desk, and he often was sent to the principal’s office because they felt him to be disruptive…I was called to the school every single day. And then the last two weeks of school, they just told me to keep him home.”
Sadly, these types of situations not only happen in Texas, but nationwide. By federal law, special needs children have the legal right to be in classes that will help them succeed. If you feel your child is being denied rights, contact us to learn more about Individualized Education Program (IEP) and special education requirements in your state.