Photo credits: L.A. Johnson/National Public Radio
The Lone Star State is shrinking its capacity to deal with public school children who are in need of special education programs.
According to a recent investigation conducted by the Houston Chronicle, Texas has the lowest percentage of special education students enrolled in its public school systems. National Public Radio (NPR) exposed the findings of The Chronicle’s state education investigation last week in a very disturbing online article.
Texas is geographically America’s largest state. It also accounts for a sizable chunk of the nation’s federal education spending budget. Many school children in the state of Texas could currently benefit from the special needs services, which are entitled to them in the federal education budget.
However, only 8.5 percent of the more than 7 million school-aged children in the state of Texas were classified as “special needs children” in 2015. NPR also reported that the state may be “arbitrarily capping” the amount of federally-funded services, which are supposed to be easily provided for special needs students in the state of Texas.
The overwhelmingly Republican, ultra-conservative education policy hawks who call the shots at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) have their reasons for putting a cap on such services. In their minds, federal dollars shouldn’t be allocated toward things like special needs matters for public school children.
It’s too painstaking for decision-makers at the TEA’s predominantly white, upper administrative crust to consider the growing amount of needs of children who are poorer, darker, less healthy, or mentally and physically slower. But the TEA brass isn’t about to be allowed to run amok because the U.S. Department of Education has its eyes on them.
“The U.S. Department of Education has given the Texas Education Agency until early November to justify, or drop, its 8.5 percent benchmark and prove that no qualified students were denied special education services,” wrote Bill Zeeble, an NPR.org guest contributor.
Hopefully this issue will continue to be investigated. There are already two strikes against a child who is a minority and poor in the state of Texas. A third strike of physical or mental disability could deliver an even more crippling blow in a state education funding system that is covertly lodged against them.