This summer, we wrote about how the state of Texas placed a secret (and illegal) “cap” on how many of its students could receive special education services (Gatekeeping: Texas Style). We described how the Texas Education Agency (TEA) decided in 2004 to place an 8.5 percent limit on the number of students they would allow to receive special education services in the state. This limit had no scientific basis and was against the legal mandate of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Based on a national average of 13 percent of the student population being eligible for special education, this effectively denied almost 250,000 students in Texas an appropriate education over the 13 years that this policy was in effect. In May of 2017, after the practice came to light, the Texas state legislature banned it.
Now we have an update. According to the Houston Chronicle, whose outstanding series of investigative articles, “Denied, How Texas keeps tens of thousands of children out of special education” revealed the existence of this travesty, the number of students receiving special education services for the 2016-17 school year increased by approximately 14,000 compared to the previous school year. While the Chronicle describes this as “noteworthy,” it still only amounts to 8.9 percent of the Texas school population, an increase of just 0.4 percent. It’s hard to imagine that the parents of the over 143,000 students in Texas who should be receiving special education services, but are still being denied, consider this a “noteworthy” improvement.
Judith Canty Graves and Carson Graves