Welcome to Texas, and from one parent of a person with special needs to another, I apologize in advance for the abysmal state of the schools in general and special education in specific. Please know that Texas districts were under investigation by OSERS in 2017-2018. You can read about it all in the Houston Chronicle’s Denied series, which broke the story. If you still have the stomach to make the move after reading that, then read on.
Which district is the best? Well, that’s really the wrong question. Here’s why.
In Texas, like several other states, we have something called site-based management. Unlike other states, Texas does not define what this means exactly. It has come to be interpreted that the principal runs the show. Period. Texas principals have a phenomenal amount of power that originated under then Governor George W. Bush’s campaign themes of “Let Texans Run Texas” and “Local Control”.
How this plays out in real life is that one school can have a well-run campus, with great teachers & programs, while the next school over is a disaster with a high turn over in teachers and terrible programs. Both schools are in the same district. If you followed that, then you’ll begin to understand why the question isn’t ‘What is the best district?’, but rather ‘What is the best school?’ And in order to answer THAT question, the parents and administrators you ask will need a little more information from you.
You will need to have an idea as to what kind of programs you are seeking for your child, and you will need to be able to articulate her needs more specifically.
So instead of “which school has the best autism program?”, you need to ask questions like
- “Which school has a great social skills program and provides aides to support my HFA child in an inclusion setting (general education classroom?” or
- “Which school has great ABA trained teachers who also know sign to work with my child with autism who only speaks about 20 words, needs toilet training, and has behavior issues?” or
- “Which school offers great dyslexia supports?” or
- “Which school provides OT and assistive technology (that is electronic) type of programs for their students with who have dysgraphia?” or
- “Which schools are served by LSPs who can effectively help my teen with anxiety?” or
- “Which schools have coaches sympathetic to supporting their OHI/ADHD students be included on the school team?”
Now, to whom do you ask these questions? Parents on on-line forums are a good place to verify info, but I recommend that you start with the district where you are considering moving. Here’s what I recommend:
- Call the special ed office of that district.
- Ask to speak to the manager of the programs for either elementary or secondary schools, depending on the age of your child.
- Have a very frank conversation with that person about your child’s specific needs and the current supports that your child receives.
- Ask that person for the names of potential schools with programs that could meet those needs.
- Keep a written log/notebook of whom you’re speaking with and what they tell you. Everything will begin to run together after the first couple of conversations.
- Ask very specific questions about the type of training the teacher of record (the one in charge of the program) has, how long the program has been going, and how many students are in that program.
- Ask very specific questions about the date by which the district will be able to complete their FIE for your student (all incoming transfer students in special ed are required to have a new FIE done by the new district. In the past this has been a serious point of contention when the family is moving from a state with good special ed services.) Please note that the required timeline for FIEs is longer in Texas than in other states: 45 school days rather than the 30 calendar days one finds in most states.
- Now that you have the names of some schools, look at their website, look at the district special education website, and ask parents in the area about particular schools.
One other thing to keep in mind when moving to Texas, is that Medicaid waivers here have 10+ year waiting lists. Because the court ruled that it was illegal to have a waiting list that long for people who need services, the state, in its infinite wisdom and bureaucratic side-stepping simply changed the name to ‘interest lists’, as in the people on the list are only interested in services. . . .they aren’t really waiting for services. Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature has shown little interest in funding waiver slots so that people can actually come off the list.
In other words, if you are counting on your family member receiving Medicaid wavier services, don’t come to Texas. Some Texans have been on the waiting list for Medicaid waiver services for over a decade. You’ll be glad you didn’t–and I’m saying this as a 6th generation native Texan.
Like this? Sign up for my newsletter.