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

TxSER's Public Statement Regarding Judge Brister's Comments



Texans for Special Education Reform  
Cheryl Fries     

As parents, educators and advocates for Texas children with disabilities, Texans for Special Education Reform is outraged to learn that Texas Public School Finance Commissioner Chair, Justice Scott Brister, has questioned the value of educating what he termed “slow learners” in Texas.

We have another term for those children – ours.

We’d like to remind the Judge that Texas children with disabilities come from every neighborhood, race, creed, and political persuasion. They are the children of storekeepers, ranchers, oilmen, entrepreneurs, first responders, and military personnel stationed in our state. Some are even the children of political donors and politicians. Some have learning disabilities, some have physical disabilities, and some have sensory, mental health, or other needs for special education rights, supports and services. Some are foster children or trauma victims.

All of them are children, and every child matters. Equally.

Texans for Special Education Reform would welcome the opportunity to meet with Justice Brister and to introduce him to Texas children with disabilities who are cherished by their families and friends, and to the dedicated professional educators of Texas who, thankfully, believe the potential of every Texas child is worthwhile. We would also be happy to introduce him to many young adults with disabilities who are attending college, working, and contributing to their communities.

Finally, we would love to share with the Justice samples of the decades of longitudinal, peer-reviewed research that has informed the repeated work of the United States Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court to ensure and protect the rights of students with disabilities to receive a free and appropriate education that prepares them for future education, employment, and independent living.

Ironically, Judge Brister’s uninformed and offensive question comes at a promising time for students with disabilities in Texas. For the first time, the Texas Education Agency, with input from thousands of Texas families, advocates and professionals, has drafted a strategic plan to improve special education. We commend TEA for going above and beyond the federally-required corrective actions resulting from the 8.5% cap to address systemic solutions, and for its commitment to continuing to involve professional and family stakeholders in a transparent process “to achieve strong outcomes for all students with disabilities.” Texans for Special Education Reform is committed to continuing to work with TEA to develop the most effective and fiscally responsible solutions for children, and to advocating for investment in these solutions by the Texas legislature.

We believe the people of Texas are overwhelmingly good people who value the lives and potential of all of our state’s children and place a high priority on public school investment. We’re working hard for the kids of Texas. We hope the Public School Finance Commission will join us.


Additional Information

Video of Judge Brister's Comments:

Video Transcript: 

It’s a very difficult choice. You know what do we get the most, what’s the best use, of our education dollars. Should we spend that on the brightest kids or the slow learners, you know the kids who probably don’t, who are ready to, you know, already prepared and headed towards doing great things or the other kids who some of them are headed towards great things but it’s just going to take more work. And is that a better decision made…is that a policy decision the Legislature should make or is that an application and efficiency decision that local principals and teachers should make? What’s your view on that? To me that’s an interesting question, and I’d like…I think I said in a speech years ago, you know, at a pure economist with no heart would say why are we spending all this money on special ed? These kids are the ones who are going to get the least return from the dollars on. Part of the answer is of course because the law says to and part of the answer is because we’re, you know, not just, it’s not just about GDP. It’s about the kind of society we want. But what’s your view? Is that the kind of policy decision should be made at the legislative state level or the district level or at individual school and principal level?

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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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