Texas lawmakers discuss bill to prohibit special education 'cap'

Texas lawmakers discuss special education

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas lawmakers are taking steps to ban a controversial cap on how many public school students get special education services. 

A 2016 investigation by a Houston newspaper uncovered the arbitrary rule that most Texas lawmakers and school board members were unaware of. 

As state Rep. Dan Huberty (R-Houston) explained during the House Committee on Public Education meeting Tuesday, essentially, in 2004 the Texas Education Agency (TEA) imposed a rule that penalized school districts if more than 8.5 percent of its students were enrolled in special education. At the time, there were concerns districts were enlisting kids in special education to avoid taking the state assessment test.

As a result, school districts stopped providing services to students who needed them to stay within the limit.

State Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) authored House Bill 713 to prohibit all performance indicators based on the number of students enrolled in special education programs. Wu said he is receiving bi-partisan support for the bill.

"There are no two sides in this.," Wu said. "There is only the side of everyone who cares about education, everyone who cares about special needs kids, everyone who understands how hard it is for families to deal with special needs children, and how hard their life is in the first place. And there is no one else on the other side."

Two representatives from the TEA testified during the hearing on HB 713. After the report came out about the cap, the TEA stopped using it, but the data is still collected. The TEA expects a new rule to remove the cap completely to be approved in the next few weeks. 

HB 713 was left pending, but Wu tells KVUE News he expects it to be voted out of committee and out of the full House soon. 

© 2017 KVUE-TV


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