Texas Parents Have Doubts About Special Education Services After Controversies

Our daily roundup of Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelNovember 28, 2017 12:43 pm|

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Gov. Greg Abbott wants top staffer Jimmy Blacklock to fill Justice Don Willett’s seat on the Texas Supreme Court if Willett is confirmed to the federal bench.

Willett was nominated to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and is expected to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate in the coming weeks. Blacklock currently serves as Abbott’s general counsel. Abbott told reporters at a Monday press conference that he picked Blacklock to “insure that Justice Willett’s seat will be filled with someone of like caliber.” Abbott added that Blacklock would be a “conservative vote” on the state’s highest court.

 

After controversies at the Texas Education Agency over how it manages special education, parents and advocates are concerned.

That includes Cheryl Fries, who is co-founder of Texans for Special Education Reform. She helped form the advocacy group after a 2016 Houston Chronicle investigation found the TEA told school districts to cap special education services.

“It can be very difficult to figure out who is championing our kids and who believes in them,” she says.

Last week, the TEA fired its new special education director. The agency says it fired Laurie Kash because she didn’t disclose she had been accused of covering up the alleged sexual abuse of a student at her previous job. But the Texas Tribune reports that Kash says she was fired because she reported the TEA to the federal government. That federal complaint, which was first reported on in the Austin American-Statesman, was over a no-bid contract the agency awarded to a Georgia company to analyze private records of students receiving special education services.

Fries says all of these developments leave parents and advocates wondering who they can rely on. “When you learn that information has been shared with a private company that you know nothing about, then you learn that the special education director herself didn’t quite like the contract and then you learn that she has issues in another state, who do you trust?” Fries says.

The TEA says in an emailed statement that it will spend next month meeting with parents and advocates to talk about ongoing efforts to improve special education services in the state.

 

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving has become known as Giving Tuesday or #GivingTuesday. It’s a chance to give back after the spending sprees of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. That’s why the personal finance site WalletHub ranked which states are the most charitable.

Texas ranked low on the overall list, coming in at 45 out of 50 states. The Lone Star state placed 34th when measured just in terms of volunteering and service, and it ranked 48th in charitable giving.