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Listen: Parents Voice Frustration in Austin with Statewide Caps on Special Education

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Jorge Sanhueza Lyon
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KUT
Gregg Corr, director of the Department of Education's Monitoring and State Improvement Planning Division helped organize the event to allow parents and educators to voice their concerns about special education in Texas.

More than 100 of parents and teachers from across the state came to Austin Thursday night to share their struggles getting services for their special needs children. It was the last stop in the U.S. Department of Education’s statewide special education services listening tour, sparked by a Houston Chronicle report that the state was excluding students eligible for special education services on purpose—capping the services for 8.5 percent of students. 

The Texas Education Agency says it’s not capping its special education services. In a letter to the federal government, the TEA says that school districts may have misunderstood a data point as a cap. The agency plans to send a letter to districts reminding them of the obligations to identify and serve special needs students. 

Here's some of the testimony.

Lorin Neslony

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Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
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KUT

Neslony's ninth-grade son, Jake, has ADHD, autism and short-term memory loss. She says he's attended 10 schools in three states and has trouble getting consistent services. 

She says, while the listening sessions are helpful for parents to voice their experiences, she wants more schools to be held accountable. 

Kevin O'Bryan

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Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
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KUT

O'Bryan's daughter was born with down syndrome. He says school districts in Texas are "incentivized" to turn away children with special needs because of costs. He says districts need less sticks and more carrots to incentivize special education and inclusion for students.

Listen: Parents Voice Frustration in Austin with Statewide Caps on Special Education
Kevin O'Bryan speaking at the listening session

Kristen Hall

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Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
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KUT

Hall, a speech pathologist, has fourth grader has dyslexia and attends school in North East ISD in San Antonio. She says her child doesn't have the same laws protecting him as children in special needs.

Listen: Parents Voice Frustration in Austin with Statewide Caps on Special Education
Kristen Hall speaks at the listening session

Dianna Pharr

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Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
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KUT

Pharr is an education and parent advocate in Central Texas. She says minority children and children from low-income families are at risk in public schools. 

Listen: Parents Voice Frustration in Austin with Statewide Caps on Special Education
Dianna Pharr speaking at the listening session

Christopher Dennis

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Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
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KUT

Dennis is a district attorney in the Texas panhandle. He says he has two children who went through the state's special education system and they both struggled to get services. 

Listen: Parents Voice Frustration in Austin with Statewide Caps on Special Education
Christopher Dennis speaking at the listening session

Gregg Corr
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Credit Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT
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KUT

Corr is the director of the Department of Education's Monitoring and State Improvement Planning Division, housed in the Office of Special Education Programs.

Corr says the reporting from the Houston Chronicle raised "serious concerns."

Listen: Parents Voice Frustration in Austin with Statewide Caps on Special Education
Gregg Corr addressing the listening session

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