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State education officials want to appoint a management team to help Austin ISD address "systemic issues" when it comes to serving students with disabilities.
In a report released Friday, the Texas Education Agency said AISD has repeatedly failed to provide services required by state and federal law. One of the most glaring issues facing the district is its ongoing backlog of special education evaluations. TEA also investigated whether the district was implementing students' individualized education programs (IEPs) and found failures there, too.
Texas education agency moves to appoint conservators for Austin ISD
"AISD delayed, and in some cases completely failed to timely evaluate and/or provide, special education and related services to students even after students had been identified as being eligible for special education," TEA Director of Special Investigations Adam Benthall wrote in the report.
Evaluations help determine if a student has a disability, and if so, which special education services they are entitled to. Typically, evaluations must be completed within 45 school days. If the district finds a student is eligible for services, it must then develop an IEP — a binding document that outlines which services the student must receive.
According to the TEA report, 13.3% (10,032) of AISD students require or receive special education services. As of March 20, 1,808 evaluations are overdue. That figure includes initial evaluations and reevaluations (which are required every three years).
Austin ISD officials said they welcome help from the TEA. Families and disability rights advocates said it's about time for the state agency to take major action on the crisis.
This is not the same thing that's happening in Houston
The Texas Education Agency shared its plan to install conservators at AISD just a couple of weeks after announcing its takeover of the state’s largest school district, Houston ISD. The timing of the announcement drew criticism from two Democratic lawmakers from Austin.
“The target and the timing are suspicious, coming on the heels of the Houston ISD takeover and amidst debate over vouchers/education savings accounts,” state Sen. Sarah Eckhardt said in a statement.
She added that state scrutiny of special education programs is “ironic” since Texas’ Republican leadership is pushing legislation to give families taxpayer money to attend private schools, which are not legally required to provide special education services to students.
State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, a former president of the Austin ISD school board, also questioned the TEA’s decision to intervene. Hinojosa has firsthand experience with the backlog at AISD: Her son waited over a year for an evaluation. She called AISD’s shortcomings “unacceptable,” but said the TEA has also failed students with disabilities.
In 2018, the federal government found the state agency had an illegal cap on the percentage of students who could receive special education services. A commission created by the Texas Legislature also found the state is underfunding special education services in local school districts by nearly $2 billion. According to Hinojosa, it's underfunding services in Austin ISD by nearly $80 million.
“While no one wants to see state intervention in the business of a local school district, it frankly has come to that, because of the prolonged nature of this problem and the magnitude of this problem."
Steven Aleman, Disability Rights Texas
“The solution to our immense challenges in public education will not be solved by consolidating power in the hands of Governor Abbott's appointed commissioner,” Hinojosa said in a news release, referring to the head of the TEA.
But the intervention the agency is proposing in Austin is much more limited in scope than what the agency is planning to do in Houston.
Commissioner Mike Morath is going to replace Houston ISD’s locally elected school board with a board of managers. He will also appoint a new superintendent for that district. In contrast, Austin ISD’s school board will remain intact, and interim Superintendent Matias Segura will hold onto his position.
The TEA-appointed management team will work within AISD's special education department. The agency's report does say, however, that the conservators should have powers that are "expansive enough" to make binding recommendations for any areas that impact special education.
Segura and AISD Board President Arati Singh sought to address concerns about state involvement during a news conference Saturday.
“I want to first make clear that this would not be a takeover of the school district as is currently happening in Houston ISD,” Singh said. “We look forward to collaborating with TEA or any organization that wants to serve our students.”
Austin ISD officials also met regularly with TEA while the agency was investigating the district, according to Segura.
Steven Aleman, a senior policy specialist at Disability Rights Texas, pointed out the TEA is legally obligated to act if a school district is failing to comply with state and federal regulations.
“So while no one wants to see state intervention in the business of a local school district," he said, "it frankly has come to that, because of the prolonged nature of this problem and the magnitude of this problem."
Aleman stressed that the intervention should remain focused on the special education department and the needs of students with disabilities under the law.
“We are in no way encouraging or expecting mission creep, so to speak, by TEA to further involve itself in the business of [Austin ISD]," he said.
Aleman added that it is encouraging that Austin ISD leadership is open to help from the state. Disability Rights Texas, which is suing the district over the evaluation backlog, has repeatedly asked the TEA to investigate and intervene.
Details about the management team
Segura said he expects the Texas Education Agency to appoint two to three conservators to work with the district. They would likely have experience with special education services, whether that’s assisting other school districts or working within a special ed department themselves.
“My expectation — and the expectation I think we have with TEA — is that [the conservators] would come and they would fold into our departmental-level team,” he said. “They would provide recommendations. They would provide guidance.”
Segura said the conservators will likely be in place by late summer. Their recommendations would be binding, meaning Austin ISD must implement them.
Aleman said he wants the process of selecting the conservators to be a transparent one.
“We would expect TEA to go through a very public process of naming the team and making sure they're fully vetted and then staying engaged with the community,” he said.
Segura said until conservators are appointed, the district is going to continue efforts it launched this year to improve special education services.
“That work will absolutely continue,” he said. “I view this as additional support, supplemental support not necessarily a complete change of direction because we have been making significant progress.”
Since Segura became the interim superintendent on Jan. 3, Austin ISD has created a centralized database to track evaluations. AISD has been working with a consulting group that previously assessed the district’s special education services, and the school board has formed an ad hoc committee to monitor special ed services.
Staffing challenges contribute to delayed evaluations
Austin ISD has also tried to improve recruitment efforts for educational diagnosticians and licensed specialists in school psychology who can perform special education evaluations. The district now offers a $20,000 annual incentive for both positions if employees meet "high-quality evaluation targets and timelines."
But, the department remains severely understaffed. Currently, Austin ISD has 72 positions for educational diagnosticians and licensed specialists in school psychology. Only 21 positions are filled, leaving 51 vacancies.
Austin ISD is not alone in facing staffing issues. Texas, as a whole, has a shortage of licensed specialists in school psychology, according to the Texas Association of School Psychologists. Elise Hendricker, the chair of the group’s shortage and workforce committee, said ideally there would be one school psychologist for every 500 students. But the ratio is 1 to every 2,597 students in Texas.
“So we are five times over where we should be, in terms of a recommended ratio,” she said.
That figure isn’t much better in Central Texas specifically: There is one school psychologist for every 1,656 students.
State intervention could affect AISD's efforts to recruit people for these positions.
“I have some concerns that any instability creates an environment that makes folks not want to join AISD,” Segura said. But he said he is hopeful TEA and Austin ISD can work together on a way to address those concerns.
In the midst of Austin ISD’s employee shortage, the number of delayed evaluations continues to pile up. The district said even though it has completed thousands of evaluations in the last two years, it remains behind. Since January, there have been 1,200 additional requests for evaluations.
Segura said he expects the conservators to provide guidance on how to address the backlog, but does not expect the agency to provide additional staff to help complete them.
An Austin ISD employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said even if the TEA tells the district how to address the backlog, without staffing, it will remain a significant challenge.
Evaluations are the tip of the iceberg
Deborah Trejo, who is part of the Coalition for Special Education Equity in Austin ISD, said it remains to be seen if the TEA can improve special education services within the district, especially because of its own role in creating the crisis by limiting the percentage of students who could qualify for services.
“It’s a little premature for me to say that, 'Yay, TEA come save us!’ because I’m not really sure what TEA’s plan is,” she said. “Having said that, something needs to give in AISD.”
Trejo has a child who receives special education services in the district. She said while there's been a lot of focus on the district’s evaluation backlog, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
“You can solve the backlog at some point and evaluate everybody that needs to be evaluated for special education services, but once they’re qualified what are you giving them?"
Deborah Trejo, Coalition for Special Education Equity in Austin ISD(Video) Austin ISD could see conservators in place by late summer | KVUE
“You can solve the backlog at some point and evaluate everybody that needs to be evaluated for special education services, but once they’re qualified what are you giving them?" she said. "What are you giving our kids?”
Trejo said federal law requires students receiving special education services be given a meaningful education in the least restrictive setting possible. To her, that means keeping children in a general education setting with the appropriate services and support and not separating them from other students. So, while it’s much easier to prove Austin ISD has a problem with completing special education evaluations, she said, it’s harder to prove the district is not adequately providing services to students who have been evaluated.
“We need the district to meet the needs of students with disabilities in the classroom. That is the most important thing. That’s why we do evaluations,” she said. “The number one thing is AISD has not been serving our students, so I think it’s really, really important to highlight that in what TEA is looking at.”
There are some signs school board members understand the urgency to improve special education services, Trejo said, but a lot more needs to be done — and fast. Families have advocated for meaningful change for years.
“Do more, do better and bring the community in more,” she said. “It isn't just the evaluations. The evaluation is the least of it.”
Ultimately, Trejo said, she wants Austin ISD to succeed. There are a lot of good teachers who do the best they can, but she wants the district to do more to prioritize the inclusion of students with disabilities in the general education setting as well as extracurriculars.
“I want us to be a district where all means all,” she said. “And we’ve got to get there.”
The Austin ISD school board is holding a special meeting Monday starting at 6:45 p.m. to discuss the TEA special education investigation report. People can share public comments by calling 512-414-0130 and recording a 60-second message between 7:45 a.m. and 3 p.m Monday. The messages will be played during the board meeting.
The TEA gave AISD until April 17 to request a review of the agency’s recommendations.
The state is stepping in. According to the Texas Education Agency, about 13% of AISD students require or receive special education services. State education officials want to appoint a management team to help Austin ISD address "systemic issues" when it comes to serving students with disabilities.What is the tea conservatorship of Austin ISD? ›
The TEA released a final investigative report in which it concluded the AISD had "systemic issues" within special education. The conservatorship aims to tackle a backlog of hundreds of Austin ISD students who have not been evaluated for special ed services.Why is tea taking over Austin ISD? ›
The conservatorship is the result of several years of investigations from TEA that found "systemic issues found within Austin ISD's Special Education Department and the district's shortcomings in identifying and providing services for students with disabilities," agency spokesman Jacob Kobersky wrote in an email.Is tea taking over Austin ISD? ›
In a statement Friday night, Austin district officials noted the TEA's intervention is not a takeover, like the long and anguished process in the Houston district, where some schools failed to meet state academic standards for more than five years.What percent of Texas students are identified as needing special education? ›
The number has gone from 8.8 percent during the 2011-2012 school year to 11.3 percent for the 2020-2021 school year according to numbers from the TEA.Where does special education funding come from in Texas? ›
This is state funding from the Foundation School Program (FSP). The Foundation School Program is the primary source of state funding for Texas LEAs.What is a joint conservatorship with the state of Texas? ›
A joint conservatorship order means the parents share decision-making about most issues, including education and healthcare. Read Texas Family Code 153.074 for all of a parent's rights and duties during their possession time. It does not mean the child's time is split equally between the parents.What is TEA Austin ISD rating? ›
In 2022, it earned a C. Austin Independent School District earned an overall grade of “B” from the Texas Education Agency's school accountability system, which is based in part on standardized testing scores. TEA issued the grades on Monday for the first time since before the COVID-19 pandemic.What is the richest ISD in Texas? ›
According to the list, the richest school district in Texas is Friendswood Independent School District. This district is found in Galveston County. The average household income for families in this school district is $167,090 per year. The graduation rate is 97%.What schools are underperforming in Austin ISD? ›
Those schools are Andrews Elementary School, Barrington Elementary School, Burnet Middle School, Dobie Middle School, Martin Middle School, Mendez Middle School, Webb Middle School and Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy. Sadler Young Women's Leadership Academy failed last year and this year.
1. Eanes Independent School District. Eanes Independent School District is the number-one best school district in Texas. Located in Austin, this system has six elementary schools, two middle schools, one high school, and one adult transition service.What state has the most special education teachers? ›
States with the most special education teachers include New York, Texas, California, Illinois, and New Jersey.What is the caseload limit for special education in Texas? ›
Educational Diagnosticians and LSSPs: The recommended caseload is 80 to 85 students per educational diagnostician or LSSP.Are special education teachers in demand in Texas? ›
Upon successful completion of your internship year and program requirements, you will become a fully certified teacher. Special Education teachers are in very high demand in Texas.What state has the best funding for special education? ›
California Provides Most Special Education Funding Based on Overall Student Attendance. The state allocates most special education funding (84 percent in 2021‑22) through a base rate formula commonly called AB 602 (after its enacting legislation).What are the two biggest sources of funding for schools in Texas? ›
Texas uses local, state and federal funds to support educational operations and facility construction in public school districts throughout the state.What qualifies as special education in Texas? ›
There is a two-part test for determining whether a student is eligible for special education services: (1) a student must have a disability, and (2) as a result of the disability, the student must need special education services to benefit from education.Which is the best ISD in Austin? ›
1. Eanes ISD. Eanes ISD serves students located within the Austin, Rollingwood, West Lake Hills areas. The school district has a State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) score of 94 and a district grade of 96 out of 100.Why are all Californians moving to Austin? ›
Pro: Taxes Aren't So Taxing in Texas
One of the BIG reasons to move to Texas from California is the taxes. California state income tax is the highest in the country, on all levels. Californians pay as much as 13.3% in state income tax and, depending on local rates, between 7.25% and 10.75% in sales tax.
Austin's low cost of living and no state income tax are a few reasons people are flocking to the city. Californians and New Yorkers make up the largest percentage of migration to Austin after Texans.
Joint Custody and Child Support
Child support is still paid when parents have joint custody in Texas in most situations.
When there is no court order, there are no rules for visitation, and both parents have equal rights to the child. The law expects that the parents will work together to parent the child by agreement according to the child's best interests.Can a parent keep a child away from the other parent in Texas? ›
What If You Violate a Child Custody Order in Texas? If either parent fails to abide by the terms of the custody agreement, they are violating a court order. Violating a child custody order can include anything from alienating a parent to deliberately keeping the child away from the other parent.What is the best special education ISD in Texas? ›
The top ranked special education public schools in Texas are Texas School For The Blind And Visually Impaired, Texas School For The Deaf and Bendwood School. Overall testing rank is based on a school's combined math and reading proficiency test score ranking.Who has the best school districts in Texas? ›
Texas' best public school system is Highland Park Independent School District, a large district comprising four elementary schools, one intermediate school, one middle school, and one high school with a total enrollment of nearly 7,000.What is the best teacher association in Texas? ›
With TSTA/NEA you have: The most powerful education association in Texas and the nation. Over 68,000 Texans and 3.1 million Americans as your fellow members.What is the poorest school district in Texas? ›
|Rank*||School District||Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Schools per Pupil|
|1||School for the Talented and Gifted||Dallas ISD|
|2||School of Science and Engineering||Dallas ISD|
|3||Carnegie Vanguard High School||Houston ISD|
|4||Liberal Arts and Science Academy||Austin ISD|
Turning Winds is one of the nation's leading academic Therapeutic Boarding Schools focused on counseling struggling teenagers from Austin, TX with overcoming behavior issues. Making the shift into teenage and teenager years can be a brutal time for teenagers, and for some, it can be more difficult than others.How do Austin schools rank nationally? ›
41 spot in 2021 to become the No. 34 public high school in the United States. U.S. News evaluated 24,000 public high schools from across the country and ranked 1,481 schools in the state, including 14 from the Austin school district.
But can you guess which Texas college is the hardest to get into? According to Niche, a site specializing in college data and resources, Houston's own Rice University is the hardest college to gain admission to within Texas. Opened in 1912, Rice is frequently placed among the best universities in the nation.What is the smartest district in Texas? ›
- High school:1.
- Number of Students Served: 4,206.
- Average graduation rate: 99%
- Student-teacher ratio: 15:1.
- Average math proficiency score: 90%
- Average reading proficiency score: 82%
- Average SAT Score: 1290.
- Avearge ACT Score: 29.
|1||San Mateo County Office Of Education||Redwood City|
|2||San Francisco County Office Of Education||San Francisco|
|3||Santa Barbara County Office Of Education||Santa Barbara|
|4||Los Angeles Unified||Los Angeles|
- University of Texas at Austin.
- Texas A&M University.
- Southern Methodist University.
- Baylor University.
- Texas Christian University.
- The University of Texas at Dallas.
- University of Houston.
- Texas Tech University.
Lack of support from administrators and colleagues. Large caseloads. Non-teaching responsibilities (e.g., excessive paperwork) Student behavior.What is the best state to live in with a special needs child? ›
To conduct our research we looked at the best states in the USA for resources and merged these with the states that offer the most in terms of insurance mandates, grants, and inclusion of the ADDM Network. We found that Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey are the most supportive states overall.What laws govern special education in Texas? ›
In Texas, special education rules are established by the SBOE and the Commissioner. SBOE and Commissioner's Rules are a collaboration of state agency rules compiled and published as the TAC. Special-education-related Commissioner's Rules are found in the TAC, Title 19, Chapter 89.How long can a special education student stay in school in Texas? ›
Special education services are your child's legal right until they graduate from high school or turn 22, whichever comes first. At the age of 22, your young adult will need to get their support from adult service agencies.Can a special education student be retained in Texas? ›
May students with disabilities be retained? Yes, students with disabilities can be retained; however, careful consideration in the development and implementation of the student's individualized education program (IEP) should prevent student failure in most cases.What is the top salary for a Special Education Teacher? ›
The average Special Education Teacher salary in the United States is $60,670 as of March 28, 2023, but the range typically falls between $47,824 and $79,454.
- San Diego, CA. $75,567 per year. 98 salaries reported.
- Bronx, NY. $70,801 per year. 343 salaries reported.
- $69,037 per year. 421 salaries reported.
- Los Angeles, CA. $68,419 per year. 143 salaries reported.
- Baltimore, MD. $64,706 per year. ...
- Show more nearby cities.
The average Special Education Teacher salary in Texas is $59,576 as of March 28, 2023, but the range typically falls between $46,962 and $78,021.Which state is best for autistic child? ›
Colorado, New York, Maryland, and Connecticut typically rank high as the states providing the most benefits to autistic people in all age groups.Which state has the least funding for education? ›
- Alaska spends the most on students overall at a total of $53,124 per student between K-12 and postsecondary education.
- Idaho spends the least amount on education overall at $19,661 per student.
- Between the highest-spending state (Alaska) and the lowest-spending (Idaho), the spending gap is $33,463.
The largest sources of state tax revenue are: sales taxes. the franchise tax (the state's primary business tax) motor vehicle-related taxes.Why is the San Antonio v Rodriguez case important? ›
The 5-4 United States Supreme Court decision in San Antonio ISD v. Rodriguez (1973) ruled no constitutional right to an equal education, held no violation of rights in Texas' school system, and reserved jurisdiction and management of Texas' public school finance system to the state.Who provides the most school funding? ›
In most states, local property taxes make up the majority of funding.Does ADHD qualify for IEP in Texas? ›
ADHD is not considered to be a learning disability. It can be determined to be a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), making a student eligible to receive special education services.How much does Texas spend on special education? ›
The Report explains how the Texas Education Agency distributes funds for the needs of students with disabilities. In the 2021-22 school year, an estimated $4.34 billion was allocated to special education, according to TEA.How does TEA rate schools in Texas? ›
Texas provides annual academic accountability ratings to its public school districts, charters and schools. The ratings are based on performance on state standardized tests; graduation rates; and college, career, and military readiness outcomes.
The Texas Education Agency is the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education. It is headed by the commissioner of education. The Texas Education Agency improves outcomes for all public school students in the state by providing leadership, guidance, and support to school systems.Is Texas teachers approved by TEA? ›
Accreditations. Texas Teachers is fully accredited and licensed by its regulating state agency and authorized to certify in all certification areas throughout Texas. We are recognized by TEA as “A+ Texas Teachers” under Region 4, and accredited to certify teachers in all 20 educational regions of Texas.Who is responsible for the permanent school fund in Texas? ›
The 15-member elected State Board of Education is charged by the state constitution with the management of the Permanent School Fund, overseeing the work of a professional investment team. The School Land Board manages land and mineral leases dedicated to the Permanent School Fund.How much does a tea superintendent get paid in Texas? ›
The median superintendent salary for 2021–22 is $143,969, an increase of 4.8 percent from last year, according to a survey by the Texas Association of School Boards.Who owns the Texas Education Agency? ›
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is the branch of the government of Texas responsible for public education in Texas in the United States.Why are Texas schools called ISD? ›
Texas public schools are organized into geographical districts that are separate from other local units of government, including cities and counties. For this reason they are called independent school districts, or ISDs. Independent school districts may embrace parts of two or more counties.Who decides school curriculum in Texas? ›
Curriculum and instructional materials are determined by the local education agency. The SBOE regularly reviews and updates the TEKS. The current TEKS are the required curriculum standards and will remain in TAC until the new TEKS are implemented.Is Texas Teachers of Tomorrow losing accreditation? ›
After a long history of customer complaints, for-profit Texas Teachers of Tomorrow, Texas' largest teacher preparation program, faces revocation of its accreditation after the program failed to make improvements while on probation after a 2021 audit found the company to be out of compliance in key state standards ...Are teachers leaving the profession in Texas? ›
A 2022 survey conducted by the Charles Butt Foundation found that 77% of Texas teachers were considering leaving the profession while data shows that teacher retention rates for the state have been slowly decreasing over the years.Why are there no teacher unions in Texas? ›
Texas' status as a “right-to-work” state means union membership isn't compulsory — not illegal. That said, Texas is one of only a handful of states that denies collective bargaining to public employees. So our employment contracts generally are dictated to us by our local school boards.
Local Taxes and Rates
The largest source of school funding in Texas is the Maintenance and Operations (M&O) property tax set by local school districts.
The Texas Permanent School Fund (PSF) was created with a $2,000,000 appropriation by the Texas Legislature in 1854 expressly for the benefit of the public schools of Texas. The Constitution of 1876 stipulated that certain lands and all proceeds from the sale of these lands should also constitute the PSF.Where do Texas school districts get their funding? ›
Most state funding for public education comes from the state's General Revenue-Related (GRR) funds, including the General Revenue Fund, Available School Fund, State Technology and Instructional Materials Fund and the Foundation School General Revenue Dedicated Account.