A letter sent Thursday from Texas Governor Greg Abbott to Mike Morath, commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, asks for immediate action to resolve state-wide problems service special education students in schools.
Abbott’s letter is in response to a report sent Thursday by the U.S. Department of Education to the TEA regarding compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Abbott’s letter to the TEA summarizes the DOE report, which points out “multiple failures by local school districts to adequately address the needs of our most vulnerable students” going back to 2004.
While the Killeen Independent School District is not specifically mentioned in Abbott’s letter, the TEA did investigate the local school district 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, claims the district is currently in compliance, as the Killeen Daily Herald reported in November.
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.
As for governor’s Thursday letter, KISD’s Abbott said, “We haven’t seen this before now. It doesn’t mention Killeen ISD. I don’t expect we would issue a statement in this regard.”
Gov. Abbott orders 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 letter from the governor continues, “I am directing you to take immediate steps to prepare an initial corrective action plan draft within the next seven days.”
That draft will be shared with representatives of parent groups, special education advocacy groups, administrators and educators across Texas. Input from those sources will be used to create a final plan, which will be put into action.
Gov. Abbott also directs Morath to develop potential legislative recommendations to help ensure school districts comply with all state and federal laws regarding special education.
“It is obvious that more can be done, and more must be done,” the governor said in the letter.