Sept. 21, 2016
It was reported recently that the state of Texas has imposed a cap on the number of special education students who may be identified with a disability. The cap has been set at 8.5% and has been in place since 2004. You can read the full story here and you’ll find a shorter version of the story here. If you take time to read those articles you may come away with questions much as I did. One conclusion is certain, there will be much greater scrutiny on schools in Texas from parents, advocacy groups, and regulatory agencies going forward.
Back to the questions that arise: Should there be limits to the number of students we identify? If we establish the national average as the standard for all states how much deviation from that standard should be allowed? Of greater consequence in the near future is the question of whether the practice of denying services to students with disabilities in Texas will have consequences for those of us who are far away? For instance, if Texas were to raise the cap on special education students allowed from 8.5% to get closer to the national average of approximately 13% (NCES) it could have far reaching effects. The number of special education teachers needed, along with school psychologists, speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and many, many other professionals could have a significant impact on the already short supply of professionals in these areas. Could other states face greater scrutiny related to the numbers of students identified with disabilities? Perhaps. Are there any positives in this story? Again, perhaps. It’s true that necessity and innovation are intertwined so there may be programs that have been implemented because of the cap (or that make that cap viable), that have produced greater achievement? Bottom line is that it will be interesting to follow this story to see how things go.