Some of you may know that OSEP (the Office of Special Ed Programs) has been investigating TEA (Texas Education Agency) since the Houston Chronicle published the Denied series in 2017.

The Denied series documented how the former Gov. Rick Perry directed the TEA to keep children out of special education by putting an illegal cap on number of students who could qualify for special education in Texas public schools.

The result?  Tens of thousands of Texas children were denied services.  The hardest hit were the students with dyslexia, students with ADHD, and students with high functioning autism.

So, OSEP came to Texas in 2017 after the Chronicle published their series.  They held hearings around the state, took comments via a website, and audited 12 local school districts.

The investigation concluded that TEA had violated the ChildFind mandate under IDEA (Individuals with Disability Act).  The ChildFind mandate requires the local school districts to locate, identify, and evaluate all children with disabilities—even those in private schools.

In addition to that, OSEP also found that TEA had failed to provide FAPE (free appropriate public education) to these children that they had failed to identify and evaluate.

Then began a long slow dance of OSEP requiring TEA to fix the problems, and TEA responding like a teenager who doesn’t want to take out the trash—dragging their heels, taking their time, and doing a sloppy job of it.

In the meantime, Texas had to return $33 million dollars in special education funding to the feds as a penalty for failing to provide FAPE.

Trust–ish, But Verify

This latest communication from OSEP (on Oct 19, 2020) details the many things that TEA promised they would do but haven’t actually provided proof for.  At least no proof as of May 2019.

Where did TEA make these promises?  In the Corrective Action Plan (CAR) that they wrote in 2018 and expanded at OSEP’s insistence in 2019.

Frankly, reading the 10/19/20 letter reminded me of  ARD meetings.  You know, the ones where the school committee members go on and on about all these wonderful things they say they’re going to do.  Then when you ask about these wonderful things later, they haven’t been done.

TEA did that.  They promised a lot, and have yet to document that they actually did what they promised to do.

What TEA Promised They Would Do, but Haven’t Done Yet or Can’t Document They’ve Done

TEA has failed to:

  • Make good on their promise to monitor 100% of all local school districts to ensure they are following the ChildFind mandate correctly.
    • So far, TEA has developed a pilot program to monitor 10% of the district but haven’t finalized the monitoring protocols.  OSEP isn’t impressed.  In fact, they expressed doubt as to whether TEA’s little program could even or would ever be able to do the job.
  • Provide documentation that supported TEA’s claim that the hearing officers, mediators, and complaint investigators had been trained in Feb. 2019
  • Provide accurate and easily accessible information to the public about the dispute resolution process.  OSEP reviewed the documents that TEA created for this and found a number of errors and omission in the documents:
    • TEA’s Dispute Resolution Handbook,
    • TEA’s Notice of Procedural Safeguards (July 2020) and
    • the Parent Guide to the ARD Process.
  • Produce any proof that they had distributed information to families whose child(ren) were denied evaluations and also possibly services.  These children are eligible to be evaluated now and may even be eligible for compensatory services, but TEA cannot provide any proof that local districts are contacting these tens of thousands of families.
  • Provide data from the local school districts detailing how many evaluation requests were received during the 2018-19 school year and the outcome of these requests
  • Clarify the ways a student with dyslexia should be identified and provided services (the difference between RTI, 504, and Special Education).  They are also supposed to monitor and enforce local school district dyslexia programs so that students with dyslexia are being identified and provided intensive, research based instruction

At the site visit in May 2019, local educators interviewed by OSEP expressed confusion about how students with dyslexia should be identified and provided with services.

And I must confess, that I was also confused after reading about 80 pages of the TEA Dyslexia Handbook.  There is some contradictory information about the difference between a student receiving dyslexia instruction under 504 or an IEP.  There is also some very confusing information about dysgraphia.

Fixing the Error and Omissions in the TEA Documents

Pages 17-31 of the letter are a list of all the corrections that TEA must make to their Parent Guide to the ARD Process as well as the Dispute Resolution Handbook.

OSEP is sending their revisions to the Procedural Safeguards in a different letter.

So be warned:  those documents:

  • Parent Guide to the ARD Process
  • Dispute Resolution Handbook
  • July 2020 Procedural Safeguards

All have mistakes in them. 

If you’ve been given a copy of one of these documents by your local school district, take your copy, and correct it according to the changes in the OSEP letter, beginning on page 17. 20_1019 OSEP response to TEA claim to finish CAR actions

What Does All This Mean To Me?

Some take aways:

If you struggled for years to get your child qualified for dyslexia or other special ed services, but the school district refused to take your child out of RTI (response to intervention), request an evaluation.  Your child may be eligible for a lot of compensatory time. Contact the special ed director at your local school district.

  • The Texas legislature starts in January.  Let your state rep and senator know the problems that you’ve been having with getting special ed services.  Two years ago, the legislature gave the schools a LOT of money ($11.5 billion).  Let them know if you’re having problems getting services.
    • Don’t know who they are?  Google “Who represents me in Texas.”
  • If you’ve had problems any problems with
    • getting your child evaluated in a timely manner or
    • getting dyslexia services
    • or asked for an evaluation in 2018-19 and were denied

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