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TxSER Statement Regarding Governor's Firearm Safety Plan

 

Texans for Special Education Reform applauds Governor Abbott for his commitment to improving school safety, and agrees that improvements to our state’s mental health system are one critical component of addressing the horror of school shootings.

 Image courtesy of  FOX 26 Houston , News at Noon

Image courtesy of FOX 26 Houston, News at Noon

Unfortunately, Governor Abbott’s Firearm Safety Plan omits the critical need for special education funding as an essential component of improving mental health evaluations and services for students. Sobering statistics demonstrate the urgent need for special education funding as 20% of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition. Suicide is the second cause of death among students ages 15-24.  Yet among the approximate 477,000 students enrolled in special education in Texas, only 0.61% are identified under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as students with an emotional disturbance.

Texas schools are obligated under federal and state laws to identify and evaluate students with suspected emotional disturbance and mental health issues, and to develop plans for providing those students with services and supports. For more than a decade, countless such students have been denied these evaluations and supports due to the state’s illegal cap on special education services. This cap led to a federal investigation and a subsequent mandatory corrective action plan, which the Texas Education Agency submitted this spring. The Texas legislature passed a law that prohibits any such cap in the future, which Governor Abbott signed. And yet, neither the Governor’s office nor the Legislature has called for the essential funding to ensure that Texas school districts have the resources to meet these legal and moral obligations to students.

Years of legislative funding cuts to Texas public schools have resulted not only in the failure to properly identify, evaluate, and serve mental health needs in special education, but have also forced many school districts to reduce counseling and teaching staff, and prevented districts from adopting research-based practices and staff training, resulting in increased student stressors. This broken mental health support system in Texas schools is exacerbated by funding cuts to health and human services, Medicaid, and other mental health programs to the extent that, even outside of the school system, families who seek mental health supports find themselves without help in a state that ranks 49th in mental health funding.

The bottom line is that mental health services cost money. If Texas lawmakers are serious about improving mental health services as a method to reduce gun violence, they must fund it. We call on Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature to recognize and prioritize this reality by making the fiscal commitment – especially for special education – that Texas schools need in order to properly serve students and ensure their safety.

Texans for Special Education Reform is the leading grassroots disability organization focused specifically on improving special education to prepare Texas individuals with disabilities for future education, employment, community participation, and independent living.

 

 
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We envision a state in which all individuals with disabilities are identified, and receive an education that maximizes their future potential for post-secondary education, employment, community participation, and independent living.

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