Two years ago, the Houston Chronicle investigated how Texas had been creating the false impression that there was declining demand for special education. The investigation was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and it showed that Texas had found ways to cap the number of special-education students, and block others from even qualifying. It was essentially a money-saving strategy, but now the federal government says it’s time to pay up, and fix the system.
Lindsay Jones, chief policy and advocacy officer for the National Center for Learning Disabilities in Washington D.C., says that while this is a good step forward, there are “still hundreds of thousands of students that Texas now needs to serve.”
Jones says Texas is obligated under federal law to find children with disabilities, who need services, and provide for them. She says the first step in this is helping teachers better identify those students. The next step is providing the necessary tools to support those kids in the classroom.
One of the problems is that Texas, like much of the country, has a shortage of special-education teachers. That’s makes a sudden expansion of the special-education system that much more of a challenge.
“Filling that need is really gonna be both training the people who are in the schools and getting those educators the resources they need, and finding more people to fill these jobs,” she says. “That’s going to be a Herculean task, and it’s gonna be one that’s very expensive for the state, no doubt.”
Jones says that parents whose children need special-education services should contact and work with their school, and then be a vocal advocate for students and educators.
“Tell the state what’s needed,” she says. “Getting involved and getting information early is going to help any parent get better services for their student.”
Written by Morgan Kuehler.