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Special education reform means all of us working together from the ARD rooms to the classrooms to the board rooms to those rooms at the State Capitol where policies get made and budgets get allocated. Maybe you've heard of the Texas Two Step? Well, we're taking the floor in a new dance for special education reform . We call it the TxSER Four Step. Let's cut a rug.

 
 
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step one
[WHAT] YOU NEED TO KNOW

Your District School Board


In many states, school districts are countywide, but not in Texas, where we have independent school districts (ISDs), or in a few situations in which small communities have banded together, consolidated school districts (CSDs). Public school districts are funded primarily by local and state taxes. School districts also receive federal funds specifically to offset the additional costs of educating students with disabilities. If you own property in Texas, your local school taxes are the largest tax bill you pay outside of your federal income tax, and if you rent, your landlord is passing that cost to you, one way or another, you are helping to fund your local school district.

Because of this public funding, every Texas school district has a board of trustees elected locally as “trustees” to represent the interest of the taxpayers. The primary responsibilities of a school district’s board are to manage the budget and any bond issues, set tax rates, establish district goals and policies, monitor outcomes and to hire and supervise the superintendent. (The superintendent hires and supervises everyone else who works in the district.)

School board members are members of your community who volunteer for a time-intensive and sometimes difficult job, so it’s important to appreciate them for their service. At the same time, they are your representatives, and it’s also important that they understand the unique needs of the special education stakeholders in their district. Parents of students with disabilities are a minority population that is often an invisible constituency. It’s important to make yourselves visible as advocates for district budgets, policies, and goals that support your children’s needs, and to be ready for local action when it’s called for.

step two
[WHO] YOU NEED TO KNOW

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  • LOCALCOMMUNITY
  • SCHOOL BOARD

    Local School Boards
    •Also called Board of Trustees.

    •Texas has a plural executive branch system, which limits the power of the Governor. Except for the Secretary of State (who is appointed by the Governor), all executive officers are elected independently, making them directly answerable to the citizens of Texas, not the Governor.

    • This branch lacks cohesion and hamstrings the Governor because of this plural system, but this is what the writers of the Texas Constitution intended.

    •Executive Agencies account for 99% of the Texas budget.
  • Executive Secretary
  • SUPERINTENDENT
  • Executive Cabinet
    • ASSISTANT
      SUPERINTENDENT(S)
    • SPECIALEDUCATION
      DIRECTOR
    • CURRICULUMDIRECTOR
    • ASSESSMENTSDIRECTOR
    • TECHNOLOGYDIRECTOR
    • HUMANRESOURCES
      DIRECTOR
    • BUDGETDIRECTOR
    SCHOOLPRINCIPALS
step three
[HOW] TO GET INVOLVED

Six Tips to get you started


  • 1. Learn about your school board.
    Go to your district’s website and find the school board link. This should take you to information about your representatives, their regular meetings, and how to contact them. You should also find a link to the school board’s policies.


    • 2.Attend a school board meeting. Or better yet, all of the meetings.
      School board meetings are open to the public, and most boards schedule a time during meetings for public comment. Check out our guide to effective public testimony for tips on using your voice effectively at school board meetings.


      • 3. Meet your board members.
        Establishing a positive working relationship is very important. Invite them to lunch or coffee. Tell them your story. Share your concerns. Remember that many people who have never experienced disability in their families have no way of knowing what the journey is, and educating them is an important first step.


        • 4. Correspond in writing.
          Expressing your concerns in a business-like email to your trustees can be an effective way to get a special education issue prioritized in your district. Written correspondence and public testimony at board meetings becomes part of the record.


          • 5. Organize with fellow parents.
            One person is an important voice, but an organized effort is a constituency. Speaking in a unified voice benefits all the students.


            • 6. Never, ever be afraid or ashamed to stand up for the educational civil rights of children with disabilities in your community.
              You are the beneficiary of courageous advocates who have gone before you; remember that people with disabilities and their parents were responsible for the passage of the laws that protect your children today. You can pay it forward by advocating in your community.

step four
TXSER ACTION [ALERT!]

IS YOUR DISTRICT STILL CAPPING SPECIAL EDUCATION?


Even as the exposure of the 8.5% cap on special education evaluations and services was met with outrage by state lawmakers and investigation by the feds, many districts have continued to assert that they have never denied the educational civil rights of students with disabilities (because, of course, what else are they going to say, right?).

One of the most widespread techniques to keep a lid on special education in Texas has been the use of Response to Intervention (RTI) as an excuse to delay evaluations for students. We use the word “excuse” deliberately, because there’s a difference between and excuse and a reason and there is no good reason that RTI should be used this way.

In fact, the feds have made it very clear that RTI cannot be used to delay evaluations. So how do you know if this is still occurring in your district?

The Houston Chronicle’s data page allows you to search the potential denial rates in your district.  You can also find data and reports about your district at the TEA website.

Ask your school board to find out if your district is still capping special education and report on it in open session.

Add hotlinks, link to denied series, RTI, other resources, etc

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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.

Copyright 2017 Texans for Special Education Reform. All rights reserved.       TxSER Privacy Policy.