Legislative Watch: Comp Ed for students with disabilities?

If SB 89 passes it will require school districts to create a new document describing how COVID-19 has affected students with disabilities.  The document would require answers to four questions:

  1.  Was the first evaluation of the child’s eligibility for special education done during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years?  If so, was the evaluation completed on time? 
  2. Was the child’s initial IEP developed during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years?  If so, was it completed on time?
  3. Were services called for by the child’s IEP “interrupted, reduced, delayed, suspended, or discontinued” during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years?
  4. Based on the answers to these first three questions, are “compensatory educational services under Subchapter C” appropriate?

Notice that the first two questions are only focusing on those students who were new to special education in the two COVID years (let’s hope there will only be two COVID years).  But the third question is a doozy.  It applies to every student who has an IEP, and I think we all know that the answer to the question it poses, for just about any child, is “yes.” Consider the verbs: “interrupted, reduced, delayed, suspended, or discontinued.”  Is there any child whose services were not, at the least, interrupted? 

The reference to “compensatory” services in the 4th question is not using that term as special ed types normally do.  In IDEA-land we speak of “compensatory services” as those required to make up for a failure to provide a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education).  However, S.B. 89 refers to “compensatory” services under Subchapter C of Chapter 29 of the Education Code.  That takes us to Texas Education Code 29.081, which calls for “compensatory, intensive, or accelerated instructional services…that enable the students to be performing at grade level at the conclusion of the next regular school term.”

“Compensatory services” as S.B. 89 uses the term are aimed at the general education students who have fared poorly on STAAR and EOC tests and need extra help to perform “at grade level at the conclusion of the next regular school term.”  Thus compensatory services, under the T.E.C.,  have a goal, but it’s hardly “individualized” as an IEP goal would be.  Instead, the goal is grade level performance. Period.

This bill would make more sense if it were aimed at the general student population.  It’s convenient to target a bill like this at students with IEPs, but it misses the mark.  All students have been adversely affected by COVID.  Services for just about every student in Texas have been “interrupted, reduced, delayed, suspended, or discontinued.”  This bill does not require any assessment of the educational harm those students have suffered, and does not call for any “compensatory services” for them. Instead, it targets only a small percentage of our students.  Moreover, it imposes burdens on educators in the special education department that are unnecessary.  Consider: the duty to provide FAPE, to monitor for progress, to assess whatever damage COVID has wrought, and to offer services to make up for a failure to provide FAPE is already required by federal law.  Special educators don’t need state law to require them to do what federal law already requires.  They also don’t need state law that requires redundant paperwork.

On the other hand, there is no state or federal mandate to examine the damage done to the 90% of our students who do not have IEPs.  There is no mandate for compensatory services for the general education students who have suffered harm. What about that?


Tomorrow: Merry Christmas!!