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Texas Education Agency Faces Loss Of Millions In Special Education Funding

Opened book library
IMAGO/Zoonar / Reuters
Opened book library

The Texas Education Agency has finished presenting its argument challenging a Department of Education ruling that threatens to strip millions in special education funding from Texas schools.

The case centers on the 2011–2012 school year when the state reduced special education spending by $33.3 million. The government said Texas should lose that same amount of federal funding because it violated a law that requires states to spend the same amount of money it receives from a matching grant on special education services each year.

Attorneys representing the TEA countered that the reduction was related to the state having fewer special education students that school year.

The case is separate from a federal investigation into Texas’ special education services program, which found the state illegally denied services to students by setting an 8.5 percent cap on the number of qualifying students.

“There’s a legislative budget document from years ago that said, ‘If we limit the number of special education students to this, we can keep the appropriations level at that.’ If you went above the cap, you got a negative accountability rating from the state, so districts made sure they stayed below the cap,” Thomas Ratliff, is a former vice-chair with the State Board of Education, said.

But Steve Aleman, with Disability Rights Texas, said the 8.5 percent cap and the reduction in special education spending are related cases.

“One of the premises and foundations of the state’s defense is that we had fewer students in special education so therefore we spent less. Well, the only reason you had fewer students across the state was because you were messaging to school districts through accountability system to identify fewer students,” Aleman said.

The state has requested the 5th Circuit panel release its opinion on the matter before the legislature reconvenes in January.   

Ryan Poppe can be reached at rpoppe@tpr.org or on Twitter @RyanPoppe1

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.