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There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference.
— Edward R. Murrow, Journalist

Commission Chairman Apologizes for Comments



Texans for Special Education Reform  
Cheryl Fries      

Last week Texans for Special Education Reform issued a public statement in response to comments made by the Texas Commission for Public School Finance Chairman Justice Scott Brister. Our statement invited Justice Brister to meet with us to learn more about the educational needs of children with disabilities in Texas. He took us up on that offer.

In a meeting yesterday with Texans for Special Education Reform, Justice Brister apologized sincerely for using a term he did not mean to be offensive, stated he intended no disrespect, and assured us that he has never thought that students who use special education supports and services are not worth educating.

Justice Brister was accompanied by Mary Lynn Bunkley, Governor Abbott’s education Policy Advisor.

We appreciate Justice Brister’s clarification, and the two hours he spent hearing our concerns about the need for high-expectations for every child, for fiscally responsible outcomes-driven special education solutions, and for the hope we have that, with Governor Abbott’s stated support, Texas is on the cusp of progress toward the Texas Education Agency’s stated goal to “achieve strong outcomes for all students with disabilities.”

This progress will require money for student services at the school level. Given this reality, and the additional need for funding to address the federal government’s Corrective Action Plan – including compensatory services for the denied population – we asked Justice Brister to hold a Commission hearing dedicated solely to special education. He indicated openness to specific attention to special education within the Commission.

Among the specific issues we encouraged Justice Brister to examine are:

• An examination of the actual cost of educating children with disabilities;

• Transparency and clarification of the ways in which federal and state special education dollars are spent;

• A review of an outdated “weight” system that works to dis-incentivize inclusive instruction;

• Investigation of the amount of education dollars schools spend for attorneys related to special education; and,

• A review of the ways districts use Medicaid SHARS funds to benefit the individual students to whom these funds must be directly tied.

Texans for Special Education Reform appreciates Justice Brister’s apology, clarifications, and the time he took to learn about our children and the children we work for, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Commission, elected leaders, and TEA to make fiscally responsible, educationally-sound progress for all students with disabilities in Texas.



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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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