ATPE submits input to TEA on proposed rules for special education grant
School Finance Texas Legislature Curriculum | Instruction TEA | Commissioner | SBOE
Date Posted: 11/05/2021 | Author: Andrea Chevalier
On Thursday, Nov. 4, ATPE submitted public comments to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on proposed new commissioner’s rules that will implement the Supplemental Special Education Services (SSES) grant program authorized by state lawmakers in 2021. The program was created under Senate Bill (SB) 1716 that passed during the 87th Texas Legislature’s regular session.
The SSES program authorized by SB 1716 follows a similar program Gov. Greg Abbott created in 2020, using his discretionary portion of federal coronavirus relief funds to give parents direct access to an account they could use to purchase special education-related goods and services. At the time, the program was criticized by many, including ATPE, as a form of private voucher. The SSES program outlined in SB 1716 underwent several modifications during the legislative process to transform it into a grant with a marketplace administered by a regional education service center, which significantly diminished its voucher-like characteristics.
Under SB 1716, parents can apply for and receive a grant of up to $1,500 to purchase supplemental services and instructional materials for their eligible children. SB 1716 also calls for the commissioner of education to adopt rules to implement the grant program. In our public comments submitted to TEA, ATPE recommended two major changes to the proposed rules to strengthen implementation of the new law.
Prioritize Students from Low-Income Backgrounds
SB 1716 requires the commissioner to establish rules for the grant that will “prioritize students for whom a school district or open-enrollment charter school is eligible for a compensatory education allotment.”
The proposed rules state that “students enrolled in a school district or open-enrollment charter school that is eligible for a compensatory education allotment under [Texas Education Code] TEC, §48.104, will be prioritized to receive a grant award.” Because all but a handful of districts receive a compensatory education allotment, this prioritization has little to no effect. ATPE recommended modifying the proposed rules to clarify that the students who generate compensatory education funding will be prioritized, rather than any students enrolled in a school that qualifies for comp ed funds.
Provide a Model Notice
SB 1716 charges students’ admission, review, and dismissal (ARD) committees with providing information to parents regarding supplemental special education services available under the SSES program and how to access their SSES account if awarded the grant. The proposed rules implement this requirement by requiring that ARD committees determine if students have been awarded an SSES grant and, if so, providing their parents with the requisite information.
To increase accuracy and efficiency, ATPE recommended that TEA create a process to automatically notify districts and charters when an enrolled student receives an SSES grant. Further, to ensure that the information provided to parents is uniform, up-to-date, and accurate across the state, ATPE recommended that TEA create a standardized form for ARD committees to use to fulfill the requirement of giving the necessary information to an enrolled child’s parent.
The public comment period for these proposed rules closes Nov. 8, 2021. Read the rule proposal here. Read ATPE’s input on the proposed rules here.
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