In a recently released letter from the U.S. Department of Education addressed to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Department stated that TEA has finally fulfilled its obligations to Texas students outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) after years of being found in violation of the law.
Initially found to be in violation after a 2017 site visit, TEA has failed numerous federal audits since. On numerous occasions over those years, the Department of Education outlined specific steps that TEA must take to fix their violations, and on numerous occasions TEA failed to take sufficient corrective action.
One of the major issues cited by the department when TEA was first found in noncompliance was the unofficial arbitrary cap placed by TEA on the amount of students that were allowed to receive special education services in Texas. Originally adopted in 2004, this unofficial policy effectively capped the number of students in a school district receiving special education services at 8.5%. In response to the initial federal intervention, TEA abandoned this policy in 2018.
While TEA claimed this cap was not strictly enforced and was not intended to save the state money, the state-level cap prevented many students from receiving adequate services.
More recently, TEA failed to update websites and materials with the proper information about special education services. TEA also failed to make certain special education information available to parents generally, failed to update the state’s dyslexia handbook, and failed to properly monitor dyslexic students.
These IDEA programs are partially funded by federal dollars, but if a state is found to be noncompliant over a long term, the federal government could withdraw funding. Though the federal government never withdrew its $1.1 billion of funding directed to the TEA, that was a possible repercussion if the state did not comply with IDEA.
While it is important that TEA comply with federal regulations, it is also important to note that IDEA is not fully funded at the federal level. During the previous session of the U.S. Congress, a bill was filed with AFT’s support that would have fully funded IDEA, but that bill did not pass and has not been refiled this session.