Rodríguez’s bill to end special education cap passes committee
Austin – The Texas Senate Education Committee unanimously passed Sen. José Rodríguez’s bill eliminating the Texas Education Agency’s cap on special education enrollment late Tuesday.
TEA adopted a monitoring policy that set an arbitrary 8.5 percent target for children receiving special education services in Texas public schools. Numerous parents, advocates, and school districts say the policy effectively served as a cap that drastically lowered the number of students receiving services for a variety of needs, including autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and epilepsy. When the cap was implemented in 2004, Texas was comparable to the national special education enrollment average at about 12 percent. But by 2015, Texas reached TEA’s 8.5 percent target, the lowest special education enrollment in the nation.
The cap subjects Texas to ongoing scrutiny from the U.S. Dept. of Education. Following a series of listening sessions attended by hundreds of people across Texas, DOE launched an investigation of 12 school districts. Parent advocates threatened to sue the state, until TEA just this month finally confirmed that it would eliminate the cap immediately.
Senate Bill 160 — the very first bill Sen. Rodríguez filed this legislative session — prohibits TEA from adopting a performance indicator that solely measures a school district’s total number or percentage of enrolled students that receive special education services. The bill makes clear, however, that TEA is not impaired in its requirements under federal law to monitor for disproportionality.
A companion bill, House Bill 363, has been filed by Rep. Dan Huberty, the chairman of the House Public Education Committee. Senate bill 160 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.
José Rodríguez represents Texas Senate District 29, which includes the counties of El Paso, Hudspeth, Culberson, Jeff Davis, and Presidio. He represents both urban and rural constituencies, and more than 350 miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Senator Rodríguez currently serves as the Chairman of the Texas Senate Democratic Caucus, and is a member of the Senate Committees on Natural Resources and Economic Development; Transportation; Veteran Affairs and Border Security; and Agriculture, Water, and Rural Affairs (Vice Chair).