Written Testimony on Senate Bill 89

Public Policy Input — 2021

 
 
TCDD logo   Mary Durheim, Chair
Robert Schier III, Vice Chair
Beth Stalvey, MPH, PhD, Executive Director



6201 E. Oltorf, Suite 600
Austin, TX 78741-7509
Email: policy@tcdd.texas.gov
Website: www.tcdd.texas.gov
  Phone: (512) 437-5432
Toll Free: (800) 262-0334
Fax: (512) 437-5434

SENATE EDUCATION COMMITTEE
Written Testimony on Senate Bill 89
March 18, 2021

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on Senate Bill 89, relating to supplemental information required for inclusion with a written statement of an individualized education program developed for certain public-school students who received special education services during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year. My name is Sabrina Gonzalez, and I am speaking on behalf of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, registering on the bill.

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) is established by state and federal law and is governed by 27 board members, appointed by the Governor, 60% of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. TCDD’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.

At its Quarterly Council Meeting in November 2020, TCDD adopted the following among its list of Public Policy Priorities for the 87th Texas Legislature:

  • Special Education Services: Ensure that students with disabilities are being supported and are receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Hold Local Education Agencies (LEAs) accountable and ensure the enforcement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Section 504. Finally, ensure that students with disabilities that have experienced a disruption in learning, services, or supports receive the compensatory services they are due.

COVID-19 Impact on Students with Disabilities:
Throughout the pandemic, TCDD has collected data on how people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families have been impacted by the pandemic. The Texas Covid Stories survey that TCDD launched gave many respondents the opportunity to report just how difficult it has been to receive adequate special education services and supports online. In fact, 57% of survey respondents reported their access to special education services has changed or been disrupted. In addition to this, many students that were set to receive a full evaluation or reevaluation for special education services were halted. It is clear that students with disabilities have faced widespread negative educational impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

His IEPs aren’t being met…
One survey respondent from Dripping Springs shared just how negatively the pandemic had impacted her children’s ability to receive an adequate education. The respondent revealed that she had to take a leave of absence from her job to assist her two children that receive special education services and have individualized education programs (IEPs).

“One of my children, who is 6 and autistic, is essentially on the computer with live classes all day long. This is hindering his ability to learn, and he can’t sit still for the meetings. His IEPs aren’t being met without in-person learning”.

– Dripping Springs Survey Respondent

Eligibility for Compensatory Services:
Many families and students, like in the example shared above, have already experienced the consequences that lapses in services and regression have had on their students. In response to this, many students may be able to take advantage of compensatory services offered by their school districts. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the landmark special education federal law that requires schools to provide students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). When a school district does not provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE), IDEA requires school districts to provide students with compensatory services to make up for skills or learning lost when services described in a student’s individualized education program (IEP) were not provided.

Given the widespread negative impact the necessary school closures have had on students with disabilities, TCDD has reason to believe that many students and families will be eligible to receive compensatory services. Many students and families are unaware that their child may be eligible for compensatory services and fear how their student will fair if the lapses in educational services and supports are not addressed.

Senate Bill 89’s Role in Supporting Students with Disabilities:
SB 89 will require the student’s parent or guardian, teachers and other members of the Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) committee to discuss how each student’s supports and services have been impacted by the pandemic on an individual level. ARD committee members can determine if the student is eligible for compensatory services and work together to make up for skills or learning lost. In addition to this, the ARD committee can also schedule affected students to receive a full evaluation or reevaluation for special education services if the student was due to receive one and was unable to due to school closures.

In closing, Senate Bill 89 is a first step in supporting students with disabilities as we respond to the disruption the COVID-19 pandemic has caused. SB 89 is consistent with the goals of the 3 Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities and will help ensure that students with disabilities receive the support they need and the compensatory services they may be entitled to. Please feel free to contact TCDD for additional information or if we can be of additional service.

Respectfully submitted,

Sabrina Gonzalez
Public Policy Analyst
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities