For more than 580,000 Texas students with disabilities, public school closures in the wake of COVID-19 have caused substantial delays in special education and early childhood intervention (ECI) services. State agencies have notified education providers that this lag in modifying individualized accommodations will require compensation for students in the weeks and months to come.
But infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities are particularly vulnerable to falling behind their peers when special education and ECI services are even temporarily suspended.
While Texas is set to receive emergency financial grants for education under the federal CARES Act, Disability Rights Texas urges Governor Greg Abbott and Education Commissioner Mike Morath to ensure that these vulnerable youth receive the services to which they are legally entitled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The CARES Act will allocate $1.285 billion to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, as well as $307 million to the Office of the Governor through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund.
Disability Rights Texas and seven other prominent children’s advocacy organizations recently sent a letter to the Governor on this matter requesting that the State and TEA use its discretionary authority to prioritize the needs of infants, toddlers, children and youth through these emergency funds.
Additionally the advocacy groups are encouraging continued stakeholder engagement to serve the interest of all when it comes to making decisions about funding under the CARES Act. The letter states, “Stakeholder engagement will inform TEA and the Office of the Governor about the magnitude of need. It will also demonstrate a good faith effort to communicate with affected parties. We stand ready to join you in further discussions about the utilization of [funding].”
Read the letter (also attached below) to the Governor and Education Commissioner from Disability Rights Texas, The ARC of Texas, Autism Society of Texas, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Easter Seals Central Texas, Texans Care for Children, Texans for Special Education Reform, and Texas Parent to Parent.