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Monday, April 24, 2017

Texas Fails Military Families with Special Needs Kids

I write in The Politics of Autism: "[T]ime is on the school district’s side. A child is in any one school for only a few years, so services delayed are services denied. And in the long run, there is no long run. IDEA only covers people until their 22d birthday: after that, public schools may cut them off."

Brian M. Rosenthal reports at The Houston Chronicle:
Texas, which is home to more members of the military than all but one other American state, loves to proclaim its support for the armed forces. But for soldiers who have children with disabilities, there may be no worse place in the country to live, the Houston Chronicle has found.
A decade long state effort to cut special education costs, which only recently ended after being exposed, had an especially large impact on public schools that serve military families, according to interviews and data.

Meadows Elementary is a prime example. The school, within the walls of Fort Hood and attended largely by the children of troops, provides special education services to just 7 percent of its students, state statistics show. That is less than the state average of 8.5 percent, which itself is by far the lowest in the United States. The national average is 13 percent.
In 2004, the Texas Education Agency set an arbitrary cap on students in special education.
There are many reasons why military families were disproportionately hurt by the cap, experts said. Military families move a lot and do not make a lot of money, leaving them less able to fight schools. Soldiers also are trained to obey authority and often are loath to cause waves.
"I'm not surprised at the percentages," said Jeremy Hilton, a Navy veteran who has traveled the country to speak about raising a child with disabilities as a veteran.
Most kids of active duty troops move at least half a dozen times during their school years, and districts know that, Hilton said.
"This knowledge creates incentives for school districts to roll the dice in withholding services and supports, knowing that a military family is unlikely to be able to effectively hold a school district accountable," he said.