Advocates want more state support for special education programs and better training for school administrators and teachers on how to better identify students in need, as well as more transparency on enrolment decisions.
Gov. Abbott orders the TEA to "take steps now to significantly increase the oversight provided to ensure our special education students are receiving the services they deserve".
To read the DOE release which links to the report, visit here.
Parents told the I-Team some schools refused to even evaluate their children to see if they would qualify for services the federal government requires districts to provide students with disabilities.
Ruth Ryder, the acting director of special education programs, wrote a letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath saying students with disabilities in the state declined from 509,401 to 477, 281 from the 2003-2004 to 2016-2017 school years.
"Every child with a disability must have appropriate access to special education and related services that meet his or her unique needs", DeVos said in a written statement.
Federal officials noted that Texas has already taken some steps to address the problems, including doing away with the 8.5 percent benchmark, but said more work remains to ensure the state is in full compliance with IDEA.
"The past dereliction of duty on the part of many school districts to serve our students, and the failure of TEA to hold districts accountable, are worthy of criticism", said Abbott. As a direct result of the policy, regulators determined, the share of students receiving special education services in Texas dropped from 11.6 percent in 2004 to 8.6 percent in 2016 - a difference of about 150,000 children. Last year, lawmakers passed two laws created to prevent future limits on special education enrolment, though efforts to take more comprehensive steps fizzled.
Abbott also requested the agency send him legislative recommendations for ensuring school districts are complying with all federal and state special education laws.
In a roundtable meeting with reporters last month, Penny Schwinn, TEA's deputy commissioner of academics, said TEA had expected to get a report from the federal government last summer - but federal officials continued to push that date back. "I don't expect we would issue a statement in this regard". "The project was planned by a mission-driven team, dedicated to helping improve outcomes for our special education students".
In addition, several states, including California, Massachussetts and New Jersey, use a census-based funding system, which assumes special education students are distributed uniformly across districts.