In response to a letter sent by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath on Jan. 11, the TEA last week issued its draft of a plan to improve special education programs in school districts throughout the state.
Abbott’s letter had directed Morath to create the plan within seven days, due to concerns about failures in school districts state-wide to adequately serve the special needs student population.
The letter ordered the TEA to “take steps now to significantly increase the oversight provided to ensure our special education students are receiving the services they deserve.”
The TEA corrective action plan draft “provides the state of Texas the chance to make meaningful, lasting change in how we educate and support children with special needs,” Morath said in a news release.
The TEA plan would provide “resources intended to be shared with the parents of children suspected of having a disability to help fully inform them of their rights to a free and appropriate public education, and accompany those resources with a large outreach effort.”
The TEA would “roll out a large scale statewide special education professional development system, including multiple opportunities for follow-up support for all educators,” including general education teachers, special education teachers and other school district staff.
For those students found to require needed services who did not receive them, the TEA plan would identify sources of funding for the school districts to provide compensatory services to those students.
Another factor of the plan would see the TEA strengthening its staffing and resources devoted to special education, “allowing for greater oversight as well as additional on-site support to local school districts.”
The new corrective action plan could drastically impact the operations of the Killeen Independent School District’s special education program.
The TEA investigated KISD in 2015 for noncompliance with federal and state special education requirements, as reported in the Killeen Daily Herald.
As a result, KISD hired Gibson Consulting Group to perform an audit of the district’s special education programs, at a cost of $85,735.
A number of recommendations from that audit were not implemented by the district, according to Terry Abbott, KISD chief communications officer.
Janice Peronto, KISD executive director of special education, claimed in November the district was in compliance with state and federal requirements, as the Killeen Daily Herald reported.
Complaints from special education parents continue to be lodged against the district with the TEA, however. A total of 26 complaints have been filed over the past two years, according to Sherry Mansell, TEA public information coordinator.
Public comments will be solicited on the TEA corrective action plan through Feb. 18. Those comments will be taken into consideration and a revised draft plan will be released by the TEA on or about March 1.
Further public comments will be accepted on the revised plan through March 31, with the final corrective action plan being submitted to the U.S. Department of Education approximately April 18.
The plan can be read and comments submitted via the website tea.texas.gov/TexasSPED