Texas Lawmakers Pass COVID-19 Special Education Recovery Act

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by Steven Aleman, Attorney and Education Policy Specialist for DRTx

State lawmakers met in 2021 and along with other public school issues, addressed the needs of students with disabilities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic with the passage of the COVID-19 Special Education Recovery Act. This Act requires the Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) committee for each student with a disability to conduct an individualized review for special education compensatory services due to school closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special education compensatory educational services provide a student with a disability the educational services needed to make up for skills or learning that have been lost when services described in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) were not provided by the school district. School districts are responsible for compensatory services even though they were not at fault for school closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d like to address three basic questions about special education compensatory education under the state’s COVID-19 Special Education Recovery Act.

Which students with disabilities are covered by the new state law on COVID-19 and special education?

The new state mandate applies to students with disabilities who were identified and in the special education system during either the 2019-2020 or the 2020-2021 school years. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down public schools beginning in March, 2020. Disruptions to normal schooling continued through the 2020-2021 school year.

What extra work must ARD committees do for students with disabilities because of the pandemic?

Each ARD Committee must consider and address four factors in regard to both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years. The four questions the committee must review are:  (1) the timeliness of the student’s full individual initial evaluation written report (if applicable); (2) the timeliness of the student’s initial IEP (if applicable); (3) any interruption, reduction, delay, suspension, or discontinuation of special education and related services in student’s IEP (all students); and (4) whether compensatory services are appropriate based upon all information available to the committee (all students). The committee must formally document these four factors but has flexibility about how to record them. The committee can either incorporate these points into the ARD committee meeting minutes or add a specific page to the IEP.

What is the deadline for ARD committees to conduct the review to consider the impact of the pandemic for students with disabilities?

Each ARD Committee must complete the COVID-19 pandemic review and paperwork no later than May 1, 2022. However, if the ARD Committee had already performed and documented such a review for a student with a disability during the 2020-2021 school year, it is not required to repeat and redo it during the 2021-2022 school year.

If your school is not complying with the new law regarding your child’s IEP within the time frame specified, please call our intake line at 1-800-252-9108.