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Houston school district to pay $300K for special ed audit

Posted April 15

— The largest school district in Texas plans to spend $300,000 for an audit of its special education department to make sure eligible children receive proper instruction, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Houston Independent School District officials want to make sure the right resources, systems and processes are in place, according to the Houston Chronicle, which reported last year that Texas has systematically denied special education services to thousands of eligible students.

The newspaper now reports that American Institutes for Research was selected from among 14 companies and nonprofits to perform the audit. The company, known mainly for crafting standardized tests, will look at how the district identifies children needing special services from among its 215,000 students, how it serves them, and how it manages its budget and resources.

Meetings are planned with staff on Wednesday and parents on May 17 to get their input as well, according to Anne Sung, a district trustee.

"We're not waiting to address issues of identification and to get students the services that they need," said Sung, who chairs an ad hoc committee on special education.

"We're working to make sure we have right resources, systems and processes in place so families don't encounter roadblocks and that we give them the right information and right support," she said.

The district's special education director resigned following allegations that the district embraced a policy that effectively limited services to 8.5 percent of students, irrespective of need.

The district slashed hundreds of special education positions, dissuaded evaluators from diagnosing disabilities until second grade and created a list of "exclusionary factors" to disqualify students. Only 7.3 percent of the district's students get these services, compared with the national average of 13 percent, the Chronicle reported.

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