The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) published a new draft of its plan to overhaul special education services on Monday.
The TEA released its first draft in January, which was crafted in response to a 15-month federal investigation. It found the state effectively and illegally capped the number of students who could receive services at 8.5 percent, leaving thousands of eligible kids without assistance.
As the Texas Tribune reports, the most recent version of the plan includes training to make sure teachers understand what state and federal law requires for educating students with special needs. It also calls for the creation a call center to help parents figure out which services would benefit their kids.
Cheryl Fries, co-founder of the advocacy group, Texans for Special Education Reform, says she is “guardedly optimistic” about the plan. Fries also calls it important that the TEA admits it’s been providing a smaller percentage of students with special education services. “It’s a big first step for TEA in this report to finally acknowledge that our state has not done its best for students with disabilities and to admit to TEA’s role in that failure,” says Fries. “So we give them kudos for that. Solving a problem begins with admitting there is a problem.”
Still other advocates think the second draft leaves a lot to be desired, even after the agency held over 100 focus group meetings in February.
Steven Aleman, a policy specialist with advocacy group Disability Rights Texas, says he appreciates the agency’s efforts to engage parents and educators to review the first draft of the plan. “At this point though, the agency again is retreating. They have no plans for holding any meetings with the public. They’re only taking written comment – and for an even shorter amount of time than they did on the first version of the plan. That, in and of itself, in terms of process, is disappointing.”
One concern that Fries, Aleman, and even TEA all acknowledge is that it will take more money from the federal government and state legislature to provide special education services to eligible students. “The truth is the cap appears to have been a cost-saving measure, and now it’s time to make up for that,” Fries says.
The agency is collecting written comment on its special education improvement plan via email at TexasSPED@tea.texas.gov. The TEA will submit a final version of the plan to the federal government by April 18.
The West Texas A&M men’s basketball team has advanced to its first national semifinal in the school’s history, beating out Le Moyne College in the Elite Eight. In that game on Tuesday, West Texas A&M had five players score in the double digits.
The No. 11-ranked Buffs are looking to best Ferris State tonight for a chance to play in the NCAA Division II’s Men’s National Championship this Saturday.