To assist in resolving the district’s ongoing problems with completing special education evaluations, the Texas Education Agency has provided the Austin school district with a suggested substitute to imposing a state-selected conservator.
The idea has not yet been made public, and neither the state nor the school district have given their approval. It is expected to impose specific goals on the district.
The Austin district provided the public with an update on the status of negotiations with the Texas Education Agency on Wednesday for the first time since a state investigator recommended the agency step in to address the district’s special education problems in March.
At a news conference held on Wednesday at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, interim Austin schools superintendent Matias Segura stated that this plan is evidence that the system is headed in the right way.
According to Segura, “We appreciate the Texas Education Agency highlighting our work towards implementing durable and revolutionary improvements surrounding special education. “We are aware of the magnitude, seriousness, and breadth of the challenges confronting our special education programmes.”
Segura said the proposal would probably contain some steps the district would need to follow, which may include professional development, evaluations, and specified timetables. The district did not disclose precise details regarding the proposal.
He warned that it might take several years.
Austin ISD responds Texas Education Agency plan for special education
While the plan is being examined, Texas Education Agency officials said they couldn’t comment.
On March 31, the state notified the district that it had recommended a conservator for special education, a person or group of individuals who directs the district’s expenditures or actions in a particular area. In contrast to the Houston district takeover, the school board and superintendent remain in charge while the situation is under conservatorship.
Officials in the district have a deadline to meet after a student’s parent requests that the district review the child for special education. Austin has struggled to fulfil that deadline for years, and officials are now faced with a massive backlog.
Officials at the news conference stated that the district has made considerable attempts to address its special education problems since January.
According to Segura, the district evaluated 80% more pupils this summer than it did in the summer of 2022. According to him, the district now has 74 employees who are certified to conduct evaluations, up from 22 during the previous academic year. This summer, the staff also received training, he claimed.
Segura said he was unable to say how many outdated evaluations the district now had.
According to school board president Arati Singh, the district over the summer approved spending an additional $30.2 million for special education in the 2023–24 academic year, bringing the total amount spent to $156 million.
She said that the board has started including public reports from its special education division in some of its meetings.
The Austin district sought the Texas Education Agency in April to replace the conservatorship with a monitor position, which would still report to the state but wouldn’t require district action.
“Dealing with it head-on”
Disability Rights Texas, a disability rights advocacy group, sued the district in 2021 over the backlogs in evaluations and allegations that it had not given students whose evaluations were delayed compensatory services.
In the past, “we know we haven’t done as good a job as we should have,” Segura said on Wednesday. “We accept that. We are doing a lot of effort to address it.
By September 29, according to Singh, the district must determine whether to accept the Texas Education Agency’s plan.
On September 21, she added, the board will probably vote on the matter during a regularly scheduled board meeting.