Special Education

Laura Isensee / Houston Public Media

In the last three years, Fort Bend schools have seen the demand for special education almost double. More teachers and parents are asking for children to be tested for a disability – which district leaders say is a huge step forward since the end of a Texas policy that denied services to tens of thousands of children for over a decade.

Laura Isensee / Houston Public Media

Twice, Britany Miller has asked for special education services and accommodations at two different Houston-area charter schools for her son, Nicholas Davis, who struggles with depression and an attention disorder.

Carolinda Acevedo, 13
Chris Paul / Houston Public Media

Last year, as a seventh-grader at Lake Jackson Intermediate, Carolinda Acevedo struggled in class — even though she loves learning. She'd stay up late to finish her homework, but then did poorly on state exams. She lost interest in her favorite hobby, making slime in all the colors of the rainbow. Her anxiety and mood disorder flared up so much that Carolinda had to be hospitalized, her mom Christina Acevedo says.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT

From Texas Standard:

In 2004, the Texas Education Agency put a limit on the percentage of students it would allow into special education programs, which affected thousands. The Houston Chronicle exposed the illegal policy in 2016, and the investigation led to the Texas Legislature barring the agency from imposing such limits. 

World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

A federal appeals court last week affirmed that the state of Texas owes more than $30 million to the federal government after it cut funding for special education in 2012. Now, disability rights advocates say they've found documents that could put the state on the hook for over $40 million more.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

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.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez/KUT News

From Texas Standard.

Based on a Houston Chronicle investigation that found the Texas Education Agency had capped access to special education services, the U.S. Department of Education has concluded that Texas violated federal law in a deliberate effort to lower the number of students receiving aid.

U.S. Census Bureau/Wikimedia Commons [Public domain]

From Texas Standard:

The upcoming special legislative session is likely to provide just as many fireworks as the regular session did. Among the most controversial issues on the table is the contentious debate between the House and Senate over "private school choice."

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

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. 

Shelby Knowles for the Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: The U.S. Department of Education is sending representatives to tour Texas and take comment from school community members on special education, continuing to look at whether the state is denying services to students with disabilities.

Pexels (Public Domain)

From Texas StandardThe national average of kids enrolled in special education services in public schools is 13 percent, but the Texas average is well below that marker at 8.5 percent. An investigative report by the Houston Chronicle detailed why: the Texas Education Agency set a benchmark in 2004 that only 8.5 percent of a school’s students should receive such services.

When Rosley Espinoza's daughter was very young, in preschool, she started acting differently. She seemed distracted and would get in trouble at school.

"Lack of interest, teachers' notes coming home with behavior notes," Espinoza says, speaking in Spanish.

She says she asked school officials to evaluate her daughter, Citlali, for special education, but they didn't.

World Bank Photo Collection/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

Since the 1970s, federal law has stated that all children with disabilities are entitled to a free public education appropriate to their needs. Nationwide, the percentage of kids who receive special ed services is around 13 percent.

But in Texas, that number is substantially lower. Just 8.5 percent of all public school kids in Texas are enrolled in special ed programs – the lowest percentage in the country. That number appears to be no mere accident – instead, it’s a rather specific objective.


BES Photos/flickr

Texas school districts will be required to have cameras in special education classrooms if a parent, school board trustee or staff member requests it, starting in the 2016-2017 school year.  The cameras are aimed at improving safety for more vulnerable students, but some education groups say it’s an unfunded mandate for school districts.

During the legislative session, dozens of parents testified in support of the camera proposal. Many parents who testified spoke about their children who were abused or isolated for long periods of time.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, who wrote the bill, says the cameras would provide protection for students who can’t protect themselves.