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I-Team: TEA Pens Letter Denying It Capped Special Ed Enrollment

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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The Texas Education Agency sent a letter Wednesday to the U.S. Department of Education denying it encouraged schools to keep students out of special education.

TEA Deputy Commissioner Penny Schwinn wrote the state agency never set a cap on special education enrollment, but admitted some school districts may have been confused.

According to state reports, special education enrollment in Texas schools has dropped since 2004 from 11.2 percent to 8.5 percent of the student population.

The numbers have been on the decline ever since the state included a special education enrollment benchmark of 8.5 percent in a district's performance report.

Several North Texas families shared with the CBS 11 I-Team how hard it's been to get their child evaluated for special education services.  The advocacy group, Disability Rights Texas, said it has worked with dozens of families struggling to have evaluations conducted.

In the letter to the U.S. Department of Education, the TEA wrote that some districts may have incorrectly interpreted the 8.5 percent indicator as a "target".

The TEA wrote it was never intended to discourage schools from testing students and never punished schools that exceeded the benchmark.

The state agency said the indicator was for research and is working to take it out of a district's performance report.

The TEA will also be sending out a letter to all districts reminding them that they are required to provide special education services to those who need it.

TEA letter to U.S Department of Education

See the I-Team's original story.

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