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There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.
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TxSER Response to The U.S. Department of Education's Report Regarding TEA's Illegal 8.5% Cap on SPED Enrollment




Texans for Special Education Reform  
Cheryl Fries     


AUSTIN:  Today, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs released a report about its investigation into the systematic and illegal cap on the educational civil rights of children with disabilities in Texas. Texans for Special Education Reform welcomes the report, but we are not at all surprised by its results. It is vindication for the thousands of parent, teacher, and advocacy voices that have cried out for years.

Nor are we surprised by the several examples included in the report that point to the damaging impacts of TEA’s “denied” policy: a teacher workforce that has been mis- or undertrained; administrative complicity in a policy of denial; and parents who have been misled, lied-to, gas-lighted, and victim-blamed as they advocated for their children. 

Here’s what the report doesn’t include: Ryan, Jose, Angela, Tasha, Hayden, Maria….Behind every number in this report is a real Texas child. A child who is our child.  A child who is our student. A child we know by name.

Many of these children will suffer in silence the lifelong ramifications of decisions made by this policy, a policy created and implemented by the very adults society entrusted and paid to help him or her.  Therefore we take no pleasure in the report’s publication. Indeed, we believe the lights of the Texas State Capitol should dim today in shame. 

But there is work to do, and fast. Governor Abbott has called on Commissioner Mike Morath to develop an immediate plan to improve special education in Texas, and indicated he will call on the Texas legislature to take action as well.  Commissioner Morath has pledged to work with parents and advocates in formulating the way forward. That’s a start.

It is high time that our leaders stop trying to prove that Texas schools are failing and start doing their jobs to help them succeed.

And success can only begin with real accountability at the Texas Education Agency. All of this comes at the same time as widespread coverage of recent agency failures surrounding its engagement in a multi-million dollar no-bid contract to mine IEP data without parent permission, to engage an experimental “design thinking for innovation” approach to legal civil rights compliance, and to hire a slew of “liaisons” who will never get anywhere close to a Texas classroom.  It is also a time when the agency first reprimanded, then fired, its new Special Education Director based on her concerns about this project, leaving agency management devoid of special education expertise. TEA engaged in weeks of cover up and falsehoods before finally cancelling the project. We still don’t know where the data is. And we still don’t know how much money was wasted.

 So, reform begins with a commitment to honesty by education leaders at every level in Texas. People who are responsible for bad decisions should not have control of the reins. Accountability is more than a score on a standardized test. Recent opinion pieces by the editorial staffs of the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News, Austin-American Statesman, and San Antonio Express News agree with us.

The awful truth is that the “denied” policy has resulted in a toxic culture that permeates every level of education in Texas and has turned a system meant to be student-centered and collaborative into one in which the personal needs of children have been viewed solely as numbers and percentages. It has resulted in a system in which the laws passed to provide for children’s equality of opportunity and protections from discrimination have been twisted into battlegrounds that provide billable hours by school-funded lawyers. And it has resulted in a system in which proven, research-based practices like Universal Design for Learning and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports have been tossed off in favor of overpriced for-profit “solutions” created by financial entrepreneurs whose greatest concern is getting their hands on the public money.

Providing quality special education is hard work, but it is not rocket science. Texas does not need design thinking. Texas needs common sense. Texas does not need expensive consultants. We need proper supports and trainings for our teachers. Texas does not need to invest in “liaisons.” It needs to invest in the construction and implementation of quality IEPs and 504s. Decades of research, thousands of pilot programs, and a solid body of civil rights laws can tell us exactly what we need to do for our kids in Texas.

No one is more committed to the successful reform of special education in Texas than the parents and teachers of students with disabilities. The Texas Education Agency, Texas elected officials, and Texas school districts who are sincere in their commitment to right this terrible wrong have no better allies than us. And if you aren’t, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

It’s high time to end both the practice and the culture of denial, break down the walls of conflict and arrogance, and send the gatekeepers home. 

These are our children. These are our students. This is our Texas. This is our time to make this right. 

Texans for Special Education Reform is a grassroots organization of parents, educators, advocates and allies committed to improving education in our state for all students with disabilities. 




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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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