Austin ISD requests review of TEA's recommendations regarding special education services

Austin ISD has submitted its response to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), addressing TEA’s notice of intent to place the district under state conservatorship for special education

The conservatorship aims to tackle a backlog of hundreds of Austin ISD students who have not been evaluated for special ed services.

Austin ISD said the district will request an informal review of TEA's decision to assign a team of conservators to oversee special education.

"A request for informal review allows the district to share information with TEA about progress made in recent months, and our near, and long-term plans for resolving the backlog of Special Education evaluations," the district said.

An informal review was an option provided by TEA as part of the process recommended in their report.

"We're trying to prove to TEA that, 'hey, we actually understand what needs to be done, and we're doing it,'" said Austin ISD Board of Trustees President Arati Singh.

Singh summarized the district's goal going forward, and they also acknowledged their weaknesses.

"We really we own the problems we have in special education. You know, that's something that's not a secret. We know that we have a backlog of evaluations. We know that we have a staffing issue," Singh said.

The backlog of evaluations was one of the main issues pointed out by TEA.

The district said they implemented an "aggressive plan" for expediting evaluations, and creating financial incentives for special education staff.

This school year, Austin ISD has completed 45 percent more special education evaluations than it did the entire previous school year. This was just one piece of an "aggressive plan." 

"We understand the severity of this problem and take full ownership in addressing it...We believe that the least disruptive way to build momentum toward sustainable, transformational improvements to special education is to allow time for our comprehensive special education plan, which was developed earlier this year, to fully take hold," said Interim Superintendent Matias Segura.

At a board meeting earlier this month, parents and teachers expressed concerns over a possible conservatorship.

"The initial concern is that we believe, Education Austin believes, it's too aggressive at this moment," said Ken Zarifis, President of Education Austin.

"This administration cares about workers and cares about our kids in a way that we haven't seen for a couple of years. And I think they did. They have earned the opportunity to have a monitor here as opposed to a conservator. And I hope the TEA hears it," Zarifis added.