News Roundup: Students Receiving Special Education Services Graduate At Lower Rates Than Their Peers

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelFebruary 8, 2019 12:49 pm

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

Texas officials updated lawmakers on how students receiving special education services are faring in the state’s public and charter schools.

For one thing, students with disabilities graduate at a lower rate than their peers – and that gap is widening. That’s what the Texas Education Agency’s Justin Porter told the state Senate Education Committee.

“The data for graduation rates trails by a couple of years so the most recent that we have here is 2016, but the trajectory is definitely not going the right direction,” Porter said.

Porter testified Thursday. He also said students receiving special education services are not doing as well on the STAAR test as their peers.

“About 90 percent, 85-90 percent of our students served by special education if they’re provided with the appropriate instruction and appropriate accommodations should be performing on grade level with their peers,” Porter said.

Porter acknowledged these data points are disappointing

“So now that everyone is thoroughly depressed about the state of how are students are performing – let’s talk about what we’re going to do about it,” he said.

Porter said the agency’s improvement strategies come from stakeholder input and in response to the federal government. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education told Texas it had to develop a new plan for special education. That was after an investigation found the state had effectively and illegally capped the number of students who could access those services.

A federal judge in the Rio Grande Valley says the federal government can survey property where the historic La Lomita Chapel is located. The building in Mission, Texas, which has stood since the 1800s, is on land the Trump administration wants to use to build border fencing.

Texas Public Radio’s Reynaldo Leanos Jr. reports.

Experts say when the government is allowed onto land to survey property, it’s usually the first step before it tries to seize that property through eminent domain.

Mary McCord is one of the attorneys representing the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville. She says they will work with the government to set up guidelines before it enters the property but they will continue their legal battle against the Trump administration if it goes any further.

“If the government decides to persevere here and go forward and build a wall that would cut off the chapel, then there will be a much more substantial burden on religious freedom,” McCord says.

McCord says she expects surveyors on the property as soon as this month. The federal government warned local residents this week that heavy machinery is rolling into the area for construction of a six-mile border wall this month. The La Lomita property has been part of official renderings for the proposed border wall.

The El Paso Zoo wants to help folks get excited about Valentine’s Day by letting them name a cockroach after their ex. Originally that roach would be fed to a meerkat – and the cathartic feast would be streamed on Facebook. However, the zoo says it’s had such a “tremendous” response, it’s now going to feed additional animals, as part of its “Quit Bugging Me” event.

The El Paso Zoo isn’t the only one in the roach ex games. Another zoo near London is also offering to rename roaches after a past paramour.