How the SHARS Issue Could Impact Special Education

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What parents should know about the SHARS funding problem in Texas, how it could lead to a potential reduction in special education services for your child, and what you can do to ensure your child continues to receive services. For a video on the topic visit SHARS Special Education Funding Cuts.

What is SHARS?

“SHARS” stands for School Health and Related Services. It is a reimbursement program for schools. Districts are paid back for health and related services such as nursing services, occupational therapy, or personal care services they provide to students who are eligible for Medicaid. Schools may be reimbursed for some of your child’s related services that are medically necessary and reasonable.

Texas school districts improperly billed Medicaid through the SHARS program.

The federal government recently discovered that Texas school districts have overbilled Medicaid for health-related services provided to students. This means that schools will have to pay that money back or pay for those services out of pocket. This also means that school districts may receive millions of dollars less in reimbursements in the future due to tighter restrictions on SHARS funds. Overall, this spells trouble for funds used in special education across the state, and millions of students could ultimately be affected depending on how districts compensate for this loss.

Will the SHARS issue affect my student?

Any student in special education may be affected by losses in funding. School districts across the state have already lost $304 million in reimbursements through the SHARS program. In the future, school districts in Texas might lose $250 million in SHARS reimbursements.

What can I do as a parent?

If your student has a disability that requires them to receive certain health-related services at school, such as nursing services, occupational therapy, or personal care services, continue to advocate for the provision of those services at Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) meetings. Note that funding issues are never an appropriate reason to deny a student necessary services.

If your student has been denied health or related services because of a funding issue, or their school district attempts to cut back or discontinue previously provided services, it is important to disagree in the ARD meeting and request that the district’s denial be included in the deliberations, minutes, or Prior Written Notice.

My student was denied related services at school. What are my options?

1. Request an IEE

An independent education evaluation (IEE) is an evaluation performed by someone who is not employed by the district. Requesting an IEE may be a good way to prove to the ARD committee that your student needs a certain health or related service. First, you must allow the district an opportunity to conduct their own evaluation. Once that evaluation is complete and you disagree with the district’s results in ARD, you can request an IEE. Districts are required to pay for one IEE as long as the independent evaluator is qualified to perform the evaluation. However, the district may ask for a due process hearing, which might result in a decision excusing them from this requirement.

Requests for an IEE should be submitted in writing and should include that you expect the district to pay for it, along with your reasons as to why you would like the IEE. While the ARD committee must consider the completed IEE, it does not have to accept all or any of the evaluator’s recommendations. This option does not require the district to continue the related services in question during the IEE process.

For more information about requesting an IEE, see Independent Evaluations for Special Education.

2. File a TEA Complaint

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) investigates written complaints against school districts and orders corrective actions if it finds noncompliance. While this option can be an effective way to remedy a denial of your child’s rights by the school district, it does not require the district to continue the related services in question during the investigation by TEA.

Your complaint should request an investigation and include information about your student, specific facts as to what the issue is, and any important records or documents. Make sure you sign it.

You have one year from the date of the violation to file, and investigations take 60 days. For more information, see How to File a TEA Complaint. The Request for Special Education Complaint Investigation Form is available on the TEA’s website.

3. Request Mediation

Mediation is a service provided by the TEA at no cost to parents or schools. They are conducted by neutral private attorneys who use their negotiation skills to assist families and schools in coming to an agreement on an issue. However, it is important to remember that both the parents and the school have to agree to go to mediation. As with TEA complaints, the school district is not required to continue the related services in question during the mediation.

The Request for Special Education Mediation Form (PDF) is available on the TEA’s website.

4. File for a Due Process Hearing

While due process hearings are similar to court proceedings and can be complicated, you should carefully consider this option if it is critical for your child’s health and related services to remain in place until a decision is reached by the hearing officer. This stay-put protection is not available if you file a TEA complaint or request mediation with the school district.

To request a due process hearing, you must provide notice to both the TEA and the school district that includes information about your student, a description of the issue, and a proposed resolution. You have two years from the date of the violation to give this notice. After filing, you will receive a scheduling order that contains certain deadlines, such as a prehearing conference, a resolution session, and a decision due date.

The Request for Special Education Due Process Hearing Form (PDF) is available on the TEA’s website.


Publication Code: ED46

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