News on CHIP funding, special ed services and school finance

Bargaining CHIP—U.S. Senate votes to extend Children’s Health Insurance Program: A silver lining may emerge from the dark cloud of stalemate enveloping the U.S. Congress over the federal budget and immigration policy. The Senate’s Republican leadership put a six-year extension of Children’s Health Insurance Program funding into a short-term budget bill as a successful sweetener to secure Democratic votes. The deal approved today by a bipartisan vote of 81 to 18 continues funding for the federal government through February 8, extends CHIP funding authorization for six years, and assures consideration of immigration legislation on the Senate floor in February. However, the bill still has to make its way back through the House, and it leaves unsettled the restoration of legal status for young people who were brought into the country as little children without immigration papers. At least the deal if completed will end the use of health care for millions of CHIP children as a bargaining chip in congressional budget talks. But the 800,000 “childhood arrivals” who could soon be deported despite having become successful students and workers here remain in limbo for now.

Damage control—Texas promises to remedy special-ed service denial: Last week the state commissioner of education announced a plan to try to make amends for more than a decade of denying services to students with disabilities because of a state-imposed cap on the percentage of eligible children in our public schools.  The plan proposed by Commissioner Mike Morath will be subject to public comment and further tweaks. You can see it and learn about opportunities to comment on the Texas Education Agency website (https://tea.texas.gov/TexasSPED). It includes these features, according to Morath:

–outreach to parents of children suspected of having a disability to help fully inform them of their rights to a free and appropriate public education;

–a statewide special education professional development system;

–compensatory services for students who are found to have needed services and did not receive them (TEA would identify funds to support this effort);

–strengthened TEA staffing and resources devoted to special education, allowing for greater oversight as well as additional on-site support to local school districts.

TEA says it will be accepting an initial round of public comments on the draft plan from January 23 through February 18. Following the initial round of public comments and stakeholder engagement, a revised draft plan will be available on or around March 1. Additional public comment will be accepted through March 31.

Here we go again—new commission to study public school finance: When the Texas Senate stymied passage of a significant school-funding bill last summer, the consolation prize for Texas schoolchildren was the establishment of a new commission to consider how to overhaul school finance. The commission will hold its first meeting tomorrow at TEA headquarters at 10 .am. Watch for our coverage of this effort in upcoming Hotlines. The meeting will be livestreamed at http://www.adminmonitor.com/tx/tea/public_school_finance/20180123/​.