Fox News: Benchmark led to special education services denials in Texas

Fox News is reporting that more than a dozen teachers and administrators from across Texas say they delayed or denied special education to disabled students in order to stay below the benchmark state officials set for the number of students who should get such services.

A Houston Chronicle investigation found the Texas Education Agency’s enrollment benchmark for special education services of 8.5 percent has led to the systematic denial of services by school districts. In the years since Texas’ 2004 implementation of the benchmark, the rate of students getting special education dropped from near the national average of 13 percent to the lowest in the country. It fell to 8.5 percent in 2015.

If Texas provided services at the same rate as the rest of the U.S., 250,000 more kids would be getting services such as therapy, counseling and one-on-one tutoring. The newspaper said records show Texas is the only state to set such a benchmark, which was never publicly announced or explained.

The newspaper found that the effort saved TEA billions of dollars but denied support to children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, traumatic brain injuries and even blindness and deafness.

The teachers and administrators said that in order to stay below the benchmark they’ve done everything from putting kids into a cheaper alternative program to persuading parents to pull their children out of public school altogether.

“We were basically told in a staff meeting that we needed to lower the number of kids in special ed at all costs,” said Jamie Womack Williams, who taught in the Tyler Independent School District until 2010. “It was all a numbers game.”

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