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Texas Education Agency’s Perceived 8.5% Cap on Students

            Texas Education Agency (TEA) placed an arbitrary 8.5% cap on the percentage of special education students permitted in any school district in the State of Texas.  Historically 13 to 15 % of students with special needs have required special education services in the United States.   The percentage cap has created a unique situation by denying more than 300,000 students with special needs out of the 5.2 million students currently enrolled in public schools a free and appropriate public education. (This number does not include the students with disabilities who have exited the system.)  The students who are in school and who have special needs must be identified and provided with compensatory services.  The state owes these children with disabilities the education they have missed and the opportunity to catch up. 

For the children with disabilities who have exited the system, the districts must offer age appropriate compensatory services in many areas other than just academics.  They must receive transition services as well as life skills to prepare them for a productive adult life.

            The districts have accepted federal monies to provide services to students during the time span that the 8.5% cap was in place.  Once a district accepts even $1.00 of federal money, that district accepts a “Child Find” obligation that it must meet.  The school districts in Texas are  aware of their child find responsibilities.

            To remedy the situation, Texas must embrace its obligation and seek solutions.  First, school districts must redouble their efforts to identify and provide services.  Moreover, the legislature must appropriate money for independent organizations to facilitate the locating of children.  Those entities, preferably nonprofits with no ties to the school districts should provide the child find services.  Second, the TEA should send out a Request for Proposals for outreach and advocacy for these neglected children to provide age appropriate programs in public or private schools or colleges.  The nonprofits must advocate for an appropriate program for each student identified.  Third, the law requires that an Admission, Review and Dismissal committee must develop the individual education plan for each student.  The state must mandate that these meetings occur as soon as possible once a child is identified as having special needs.  That timeline should be no more than sixty days from identification to assessment to placement.  Fourth, TEA must ensure oversight of the schools through the nonprofit organizations. Finally, the State must fund this program for a minimum of ten years, perhaps with a reduction in funds after a certain number of these children are identified.  Fifth, there must be pre- and post-tests to determine the progress of these students throughout this process.  Careful and positive documentation of progress will help restore trust in the public education system.

            Students with special needs can and do grow to become productive adults given the proper education that is geared to their unique needs.  Studies have proven that early intervention offers the best opportunity for educational success.  By postponing the identification of students, districts are missing major developmental milestones from which some students may never recover and irreparable damage occurs.  This damage not only affects these students with disabilities but it permanently handicaps the Texas workforce. As a conservative state that wants all of its citizens working and paying taxes, we must recognize the need to educate ALL of our students and prepare them to enter the workforce.  We cannot balance the future of our children on the fluctuations of the state budget. (That is why Texas invests in the “rainy day” fund.)  With the right interventions, most of these students will eventually find gainful employment but, for those who cannot work, we must prepare them to live as meaningful a life as possible.  With students, nonprofits, experts, teachers, schools and parents working together, Texas can restore the people’s faith in our public school system.  No one ever entered the field of education with the idea of denying much needed services to our children.  We must strive to rebuild the special education system.

Karen Dalglish Seal, Attorney, 202 East Park Avenue, San Antonio, TX 78212, Office: 210-226-8101 

All information contained within this web site is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. No attorney-client relationship exists from the use of this web site, and an attorney-client relationship may only be established by contracting directly with Karen Dalglish Seal, Attorney at Law. Intellectual property within this Website are copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Karen Dalglish Seal.  Licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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