The Beckley Wilson Bill, A Study In Opposing Theories On Dyslexia Identification and Remediation
The Beckley Wilson Bill, A Study In Opposing Theories On Dyslexia Identification and Remediation & How That Played Out In The Texas Legislature
by Ashley Roberts
The Texas State Legislature meets for approximately five months every two years. Beginning in January and ending in May, both the House and Senate convene and hear all issues, all bills proposed that can be heard in their limited window, and unless a special session is called, Texas residents must wait another year and a half before the process starts all over again.
A "trick" to navigating the legislature is to get your proposed bills written, sponsors lined up and the then submitted early, leading into the new session. Statistically speaking, the lower numbered bills usually make it through, unless they are so controversial, they just don't get the necessary votes to pass. It is hard to come into the session late, but some do make it through...sometimes.
Shortly after the legislative session began some phone calls started happening to rally the various dyslexia groups and advocates across the state to "pull on one rope" together and back a new bill. This bill would have altered how dyslexia is evaluated across the state by the local education agencies, i.e., the school districts, by aligning to IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Now, to clarify, dyslexia is not currently evaluated, as a first line of defense, in any school district in the state of Texas under IDEA, but instead under Section 504. To explain why requires a small history lesson.
The History of IDEA, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – Part 1
Congress enacted the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142), also known as the EHA, in 1975 to support states and localities in protecting the rights of, meeting the individual needs of, and improving the results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and their families. This landmark law’s name changed to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, in a 1990 reauthorization. The law was last reauthorized in 2004, and the department has periodically issued new or revised regulations to address the implementation and interpretation of the IDEA.
The 1986 reauthorization (Public Law 99-457) addressed early intervention and mandated that individual states provide services to families of children born with disabilities from the time they are born. Previously, these services were not available until a child reached the age of three.
The Birth of Texlexia
Texas first began creating policies regarding dyslexia requirements and guidelines in public education for grades K–12 in 1986. At that time, the 69th Legislature passed bill HB 157, which defined dyslexia and related disorders and mandated screening and treatment by local school districts.
HB 157 reads as follows:
Section 1, Subchapter Z, Chapter 21, Education Code is amended by adding Section 21,924 to read as follows:
HB 157 is a bill for the screening and treatment for dyslexia and related disorders. (a) In this section:
"Dyslexia" means a disorder of constitutional origin manifested by a difficulty in learning to read, write, or spell, despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and socio-cultural opportunity.
"Related disorders" includes disorders similar to or related to dyslexia such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.
(b) The SBOE (State Board of Education) shall approve from time to time review a program under which students enrolling in public schools in this state are tested for dyslexia and related disorders at appropriate times.
(c) In accordance with the program approved by the SBOE, the board of trustees of each school district shall provide for the treatment of any student determined to have dyslexia or a related disorder.
(d) The SBOE shall adopt any rules and standards necessary to administer this section.
(a) The SBOE shall approve methods for screening for dyslexia and related disorders and techniques for treating dyslexia and related disorders not later than January 1, 1986.
(b) The board of trustees of a school district shall implement a program for screening for and treating dyslexia and related disorders as provided by this Act not later than the beginning of the 1986-1987 school year.
The importance of this legislation and the crowded condition of the calendars in both houses create an emergency and an imperative public necessity that the constitutional rule requiring bills to be read on three several days in each house be suspended, and this rule is hereby suspended and this Act take effect and be in force from and after it's passage, and it is so enacted.
With this law, the concept of “Texlexia” was born.
Now bear in mind what the Education for All Handicapped Children Act was in 1986. SpEd was a place, not a service. Many of us here at The Dyslexia Initiative are old enough to remember that the children in Special Education were removed from the General Education population, were wholly self-contained, and we did not intermingle. To be classified as Special Education as a dyslexic child, regardless of what state you lived in, meant that you were excluded from the General Education population, and your classes were in a Resource Room with children with a variety of special needs.
Special Education was not, therefore, the most beneficial design for a dyslexic child, and so the creation of Texlexia was a benefit to the dyslexic children within the state. As with all things however, this was not a perfect solution, and it is not a solution that stayed up to date with the evolution of IDEA over the subsequent decades.
Before we review how IDEA changed, let’s review how the Texas legislative code changed for dyslexic children.
Additional legislation passed in the subsequent decade that continued to shape dyslexia policy and practices in Texas.
In 1991, HB 1314 passed that allowed instructional accommodations for students with dyslexia. In addition, the first state dyslexia coordinator position was created in Education Service Center 10 to assist with implementation of dyslexia procedures.
During the 1993 - 1994 legislative session, SB 7 passed, requiring accommodations for testing students with dyslexia.
In 1995, as part of Governor Bush’s Texas Reading Initiative and a focus on reading proficiency by 3rd grade, the Texas legislature mandated that the entire public-school education code be rewritten. However, advocates worked to have previous dyslexia laws preserved so that they would not be lost in the transition. The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) updated all reading curriculum to include a stronger, explicit, scientifically researched phonics-based curriculum.
In 1997, the legislature passed the Student Success Initiative (TEC §28.006), which resulted in the implementation of reading diagnosis procedures for early identification of reading difficulties, such as dyslexia and related disorders. In addition, informal screening was developed for early identification of reading difficulties and funding for dyslexia coordinators was approved for all 20 regional education service centers.
In 2003, TEC §7.028(b) delegated responsibility for school compliance to the local school board. Therefore, monitoring of school compliance for serving students with dyslexia and related disorders fell under the purview of the local school board.
In 2004, TEA (Texas Education Agency) conducted a longitudinal study on assessments that resulted in the use of bundled accommodations (oral reading of item stems/answer options; extended time; and proper nouns lists) for students with dyslexia when taking state assessments. After this change, state test proficiency rates increased from 9% to 41% for students with dyslexia in elementary through middle school.
In 2009, Occupations Code, Ch. 403 passed that mandated the specific educational and experience requirements for licensed dyslexia practitioners and licensed dyslexia therapists. In the summer of 2010, the need arose for an updated version of the Dyslexia Handbook to reflect new legislation and additional research.
In 2011, several new laws pertaining to dyslexia and related disorders were passed or updated. One piece of legislation required integrating technology into the classroom to help accommodate students with dyslexia (TEC §38.0031 was updated to reflect the changes). New legislation regarding the retesting of students for dyslexia stated that, unless otherwise provided by law, an institution of higher education (defined by Section 61.003), may not reassess a student determined to have dyslexia for the purpose of assessing the student's need for accommodations until the institution of higher education reevaluates the information obtained from previous assessments of the student. TEC §51.9701 and TEC §38.003(b-1) were updated to reflect the new mandate. Texas Occupations Code §54.003 was updated to reflect the new requirements. Educator preparation and continuing education requirements for dyslexia were enacted and outlined in the amendments made to TEC §21.044 and §21.054.
In 2013, TEC §42.006(a-1) was amended to require reporting in PEIMS the number of students identified with dyslexia.
In 2015, legislation regarding the requirements for licensed dyslexia practitioners and licensed dyslexia therapists was amended (Occupations Code, Ch. 403). The screening and treatment for dyslexia and related disorders was amended in 2017 (TEC §38.003).
In 2017, the Texas legislature passed HB 1886 which introduced requirements for the screening of all students enrolling in Texas public schools for dyslexia or related disorders.
(Source: https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/DyslexiaIDReportStudyReport-508Compliant.pdf - Chapter 3.2 - History of Dyslexia in Texas)
Now bearing all the above in mind, it is important to review how IDEA changed as well.
But First, A Few Quick Call Outs…
There is no such thing as developmental dyslexia, developmental dysgraphia, or developmental spelling disability.
Texas is obsessed with the idea of “developmental” dyslexia. A child does not “develop” dyslexia or dysgraphia or a spelling disability unless the child has a stroke or brain injury. Dyslexia and dysgraphia are both genetic and neurobiological in origin. Spelling issues are directly related to dyslexia and dysgraphia both.
When my child was privately diagnosed in 2016, I was told he had developmental dyslexia and developmental dysgraphia. It was a while before I learned that phrasing it that way aligned back to the 1986 law and was a wholly inaccurate classification.
Leave it to Texas to need to do something differently from the rest of the country, and I’m a native Texan so I get to make that call out.
Also, “socio-cultural opportunity?” Really? Oh, they’re wealthy enough they should be able to read, and we’ll just give a pass to poor people. (Insert angry emoji here!) Granted this was 1986 but come on! This stings of the whole balanced literacy notion of “literacy rich homes” engendering more success in reading is rife in this statement, but I’ll let Dr. Seidenberg straighten that one out.
“Our culture's emphasis on the importance of reading to children creates the impression that it plays the same role in learning to read as speaking to children plays in their learning to talk. That's not correct. Whereas talking with children guarantees that they will learn to speak (in the absence of pathological interference), reading to children does not guarantee that they will learn to read. In short, reading to children is not the same as teaching children to read. I emphasize this point because the mantra about reading to children makes it seem that this is all that is required. A child who has difficulty learning to read therefore has not been read to enough. Among the first questions that will be asked of the parents of a child who is struggling is whether they read to the child and if there are books in the home. Reading to children is important but not sufficient; children benefit from it, some quite a lot, but it neither obviates the role of instruction nor vaccinates against dyslexia. Children who are read to until the cow jumps over the moon can still have difficulty becoming readers.”
-Mark Seidenberg, Language at the Speed of Sight
Now, back to our regularly scheduled article….
The History of IDEA, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act – Part 2
The 1990 reauthorization (Public Law 110-476) changed the law’s name from EHA to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. It also added traumatic brain injury and autism as new disability categories. Additionally, Congress mandated that as a part of a student’s individualized education program (IEP), an individual transition plan (ITP) must be developed to help the student transition to post-secondary life.
The 1997 (Public Law 105-17) reauthorization articulated a new challenge to improve results for children with disabilities and their families. This included an emphasis on access to the general curriculum. Additionally, states were given the authority to expand the “developmental delay” definition to also include students up to age nine. The law also required parents be provided an opportunity to attempt to resolve disputes with schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) through mediation and provided a process for doing so.
In 2004, the IDEA reauthorization aligned the IDEA with the No Child Left Behind Act requirements. The reauthorization called for:
Early intervening services for children not currently identified as needing special education but who need additional academic and behavioral support to succeed in a general education environment,
Greater accountability and improved educational outcomes, and
Raised standards for instructors who teach special education classes.
In August 2006, the department issued regulations necessitated by the 2004 reauthorization. The 2006 IDEA regulations required schools to use research-based interventions in the process of assisting students with learning difficulties or determining eligibility for special education. The 2006 regulations also addressed other new requirements included in the 2004 reauthorization, such as:
The resolution process required when a parent files a due process complaint, and
Shifting the responsibility to provide equitable services for parentally-placed private school children with disabilities to the local educational agency (LEA) in which the private school is located.
In 2008, the department issued regulations it determined were needed to clarify and strengthen effective implementation and administration of IDEA programs. These IDEA regulations addressed:
Parental consent for continued special education and related services;
Non-attorney representation in due process hearings;
State monitoring, technical assistance, and enforcement;
Allocation of funds; and
Positive efforts to employ and advance in employment individuals with disabilities.
Both 2011 and 2013 regulations included clarifications or revisions to the IDEA for infants and toddlers with disabilities programs. Additionally, the 2013 regulations revised the parental consent requirements related to a child’s or parent’s public benefits and ensured parent of children with disabilities are specifically informed of all their legal protections when public agencies seek access to public benefits or insurance to pay for services required under the IDEA.
The 2015 revisions revised regulations governing the requirement that LEAs maintain fiscal effort; removed the authority for states to define modified academic achievement standards and develop alternate assessments based in those modified academic achievement standards or eligible students with disabilities.
Notably, a 2017 revision reflected changes made to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by Rosa’s Law, which replaces references to “mental retardation” in Federal law with “intellectual disability” or “intellectual disabilities.” Other 2017 revisions removed and revised IDEA definitions based on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA).
In March 2017, the Supreme Court ruled on a landmark case that defines the scope of FAPE requirements under IDEA. In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District Re-1, the Supreme Court determined that “[t]o meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” The Court additionally emphasized the requirement that “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives.”
What is not included in this list is that the Texas State Legislature passed a cap on special education limiting it to 8.5%. This encompasses all special needs categories, not just SLD.
To be clear, the 13 qualifications are:
1. Specific Learning Disability (SLD) - The “specific learning disability” (SLD) category covers a specific group of learning challenges. These conditions affect a child’s ability to read, write, listen, speak, reason, or do math. SLD is the most common category under IDEA. In the 2018–19 school year, around 33 percent of students who qualified did so under this category.
2. Other Health Impairment (OHI) - The “other health impairment” category covers conditions that limit a child’s strength, energy, or alertness. One example is ADHD, which impacts attention and executive function.
3. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) - ASD is a developmental disability. It involves a wide range of symptoms, but it mainly affects a child’s social and communication skills. It can also impact behavior.
4. Emotional Disturbance - Various mental health issues can fall under the “emotional disturbance” category. They may include anxiety disorder, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. (Some of these may also be covered under “other health impairment.”)
5. Speech or Language Impairment - This category covers difficulties with speech or language. A common example is stuttering. Other examples are trouble pronouncing words or making sounds with the voice. It also covers language problems that make it hard for kids to understand words or express themselves.
6. Visual Impairment, Including Blindness - A child who has eyesight problems is considered to have a visual impairment. This category includes both partial sight and blindness. If eyewear can correct a vision problem, then it doesn’t qualify.
7. Deafness - Kids with a diagnosis of deafness fall under this category. These are kids who can’t hear most or all sounds, even with a hearing aid.
8. Hearing Impairment - The term “hearing impairment” refers to a hearing loss not covered by the definition of deafness. This type of loss can change over time. Being hard of hearing is not the same thing as having trouble with auditory or language processing.
9. Deaf-Blindness - Kids with a diagnosis of deaf-blindness have both severe hearing and vision loss. Their communication and other needs are so unique that programs for just the deaf or blind can’t meet them.
10. Orthopedic Impairment - An orthopedic impairment is when kids lack function or ability in their bodies. An example is cerebral palsy.
11. Intellectual Disability - Kids with this type of disability have below-average intellectual ability. They may also have poor communication, self-care, and social skills. Down syndrome is one example of a condition that involves an intellectual disability.
12. Traumatic Brain Injury - This is a brain injury caused by an accident or some kind of physical force.
13. Multiple Disabilities - A child with multiple disabilities has more than one condition covered by IDEA. Having multiple issues creates educational needs that can’t be met in a program designed for any one disability.
Then, in 2018 - things changed.
These "efforts, which started in 2004 but have never been publicly announced or explained, have saved the Texas Education Agency billions of dollars but denied vital supports to children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, traumatic brain injuries, even blindness and deafness, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.
More than a dozen teachers and administrators from across the state told the Chronicle they have delayed or denied special education to disabled students in order to stay below the 8.5% benchmark. They revealed a variety of methods, from putting kids into a cheaper alternative program known as "Section 504" to persuading parents to pull their children out of public school altogether.
"We were basically told in a staff meeting that we needed to lower the number of kids in special ed. at all costs," said Jamie Womack Williams, who taught in the Tyler Independent School District until 2010. "It was all a numbers game."
Texas is the only state that has ever set a target for special education enrollment, records show."
(Source: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/denied/1/ - The Houston Chronicle Denied Series, published September 10, 2016, by Brian M. Rosenthal)
The 2016 Houston Chronicle expose on the denial of Special Education in Texas brought unwanted attention to the way things were; so in 2017 Texas repealed the Special Education cap, but with 13 years of enforcement, the damage was significant.
Also, footnote I can’t avoid – is it a coincidence that the greatest overhaul of IDEA occurs in the same year that Texas places a cap on Special Education? Bear in mind this is when Special Education is officially no longer a place, BUT A SERVICE. Hmmm.
The Houston Chronicle series also led to the largest investigation in the Federal Department of Education’s history of any state educational agency, and a substantial censure, issued in January 2018. The censure was fourteen pages long and one disability was called out more than any other, in fact it was named on every page – dyslexia.
Then, in 2018 following the censure, TEA issued a letter to administrators and local education agencies with the intent to provide guidance and clarification regarding the provision of supports and interventions for a student identified with, or suspected of having, dyslexia or a related disorder. The letter reiterated and clarified that the Child Find mandate under the IDEA applies to students with, or suspected of having, dyslexia or a related disorder.
Except The Problem Is…
Except the problem is Texlexia is engrained in Texas’ way of thinking about dyslexia. To be honest, at this point it is educational pedagogy. Because Texas provided for dyslexia under Section 504, once IDEA was overhauled in 2004, converting SpEd from a place to a service, this was irrelevant to the state’s way of doing things. They were eighteen years in at this point with Texlexia and weren’t going to shift gears just because IDEA changed.
So, since 1986, dyslexia has been evaluated with a trimmed down evaluation tool which looks at a few reading markers and not at any additional SLD’s or comorbid conditions. This therefore assumes that a child with dyslexia is mild to lower moderate on the spectrum, and with some additional reading help the child will be successful in a General Education setting. The dyslexia remediation classes almost always exist under the General Education organizational structure, not Special Education, and the teachers are General Education teachers with some reading remediation training. Under this structure certifications and licensure in dyslexia are not required of the dyslexia teachers, their supervisors, or their department heads, nor is it a requirement of state law.
This is the epitome of a GenEd child, with a slight reading struggle, being a square peg that fits into a predetermined square hole, and voila! Remediation!
The whole child is never evaluated, and this is the equivalent of assuming that dyslexia is just reading and nothing else and a few additional sessions will cure the child’s issues with reading.
Additionally, program mastery checks, and teacher’s notes are the only means of progress monitoring. Evaluations like the GORT and KTEA are never performed that would give insight into a child’s rate, accuracy, fluency or comprehension, much less their written expression. This means that the program’s mastery checks are essentially the main tool used to state if a child has successfully completed a remediation program. This means that when the pre-set, pre-determined program is complete, via lesson plans already laid out, the child is dismissed from services without any real assurance that the child is a successful reader. Accommodations may continue, but dyslexia remediation is terminated.
And I won’t even mention the one district I know of who has their own MADE-UP ASSESSMENT tool that is proprietary to the district which only requires a 60% score to state the child’s remediation is complete. Yes, you read that correctly – 60%.
Last time I checked 60% was an F.
Oh, and none of the dyslexia department heads for that district have a single dyslexia certification between them, not one, and these are the people telling you that your child’s remediation is complete, and the child can be dismissed with an F on their proprietary assessment.
Yup, nothing to see here folks.
Bear in mind that Texas tends to follow one of three primary programs for remediation – Take Flight via Scottish Rite, Neuhaus, and Reading by Design (RBD), formerly known as DIP (Dyslexia Intervention Program) until it was overhauled. Note that of the above RBD was created by Region 4, and therefore is a state created and fostered remediation program.
Note, Neuhaus and Scottish Rite are on the IDA list of programs, but RBD has no research or evidence behind it, yet it’s been rolled out to a significant number of districts across the state. Yes, it’s built on programs that have research and evidence, but research and evidence to support RBD itself is lacking.
Also note: By listing the above programs this is in no way a recommendation or criticism of these programs. The Dyslexia Initiative recommends following IDA’s direction on programs they support; we are otherwise neutral on the subject.
While districts can make their own curriculum decisions, and districts do invest in a variety of “programs” to “teach” dyslexic students, the guidelines for what those programs had to be prior to the 2018 Texas Dyslexia Handbook revision was vague at best. Sadly, with the 2018 revision, both the terms evidence-based and research-based exist for what programs should be used. The only real win was the inclusion that fidelity must be adhered to, and while that’s a huge stride forward, that too has some issues with it for the children who fall onto the more moderate portion of the spectrum, or have additional SLD’s or comorbid conditions, or both, and therefore possess a more complicated educational equation.
In short, the 2018 Handbook did not do much to resolve anything it was supposed to resolve. The core issue was that both 504s and IEPs were provided for, but a very convoluted flow chart with no actual guidance for making a distinction between the two was laid out. What this meant was that local education agencies (ISD’s) were left on their own to decide if a child did or did not qualify for any services and if they did, under which umbrella.
Now, layer in the thirty-five years of history of Texlexia, and you have a very engrained pedagogy on how dyslexia should be evaluated and managed.
Let’s also not forget one tiny tidbit…dyslexia is NAMED inside of IDEA. §1401 (30) Specific Learning Disability – includes “dyslexia,“ but, no, let’s continue on pretending like dyslexia doesn’t need protection under IDEA.
The fall out of this is children are still significantly under identified, under evaluated, if evaluated still denied, and if evaluations are granted parents are pushed to the 504 solution, not the IEP protections under IDEA.
Parents are not informed of their rights under IDEA, not informed there is an alternative evaluation process, and not informed of what IDEA is at all. These are not grand statements either. This is the state of education across Texas. The idea of driving parents to 504’s or out of the schools altogether is very much alive and well in 2021 in every district in the state.
The Texas 85th Legislative Session, January to May 2021
It’s taken a long time to get here, but the background was necessary, and honestly the history shown here is still inadequate. There’s more I could share, but for now let’s move on.
What I’ve tried to stress is that Texlexia is a pedagogy, that it is not aligned to IDEA, is a GenEd solution, warehoused in GenEd, staffed by GenEd teachers, and is meant to be a plug and play program for dyslexic children.
So, a group of parents in the Highland Park area of Dallas gathered together and called themselves The Kitchen Table group. Together they authored an astounding paper, a treatise really, that summarizes the legislative history of Texas for dyslexia, cites case law, and makes a solid argument for why our school districts should be leading with the IDEA evaluation, which again we in Texas call an FIE.
The argument was simple and factual. The probability of dyslexia existing with another SLD or comorbid condition is greater than 60%. Per one study, “ADHD was present in 33%, Anxiety Disorder in 28.8%, Developmental Coordination Disorder in 17.8%, Language Disorder in 11% and Mood Disorder in 9.4% of patients.”
(Source: August 23, 2013, by Margari, L., Buttiglione, M., Craig, F. et al. Neuropsychopathological comorbidities in learning disorders. BMC Neurol 13, 198 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2377-13-198)
It is the women of The Kitchen Table group that reached out to the various dyslexia groups and advocates across the state and asked if we could all work together, “pulling on one rope” to try to turn the tides for our dyslexic children.
Each advocate had their own personal reasons for being involved, and for most of us it was because of a child that calls us mom or dad. We united together because the paper was concise and accurate, each of us have long wanted Texas to turn the tide for our dyslexic children and finally get in line with what the Fed DOE has been demanding of Texas and follow IDEA, and because it was the right and necessary thing to do.
The facts are quite simple – Texas, despite a laughable rewrite of the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, and some pretty PowerPoint presentations issued by the TEA, has not moved the marker for our dyslexic children. They are still denied, still in 504, still not reading on grade level, still being passed over for “normative” peers.
So, if the TEA wouldn’t do the job, then parents were happy to legislate the necessary changes.
The bill was simple – lead with the FIE, not with the watered down “dyslexia evaluation” which only looks at a few reading markers. Once the FIE was completed the parents would then be fully informed of their child’s whole educational equation and be empowered to make the best educational decisions for their children right out of the gate, not years later after a 504 solution did nothing to change their child’s struggles in school.
Oh, and here is an important footnote – IDEA does not mandate WHO can teach your child. Just because the child has an FIE does not mean they have to be in a SpEd classroom with a SpEd teacher. If that’s the right solution then hey, go for it! But again, the WHO is not specified. IDEA is meant to serve as a guide with enough ambiguity built in to allow for the proper individualization. Now, I know of an advocate who is going to scream, “IDEA IS NOT AMBIGIOUS!”, but the truth is it is in some areas to allow for the necessary program development for the child. I’m not a lawyer (even though I pretend to be one on TV – joking!), but this is what Peter Wright says about IDEA, and he’s the legal guru I listen to on all things IDEA.
So, bearing in mind that you’d lead with the FIE, thereby informing the parents of their child’s whole educational equation up front, empowering the parents to make the best and right decisions for their children, and IDEA does not mandate WHO can or will instruct your child, the resistance that came forward for this bill was confusing at best, and while some of the group had run the legislative gauntlet before and knew what to expect, for many, that was not the case, and was a hefty learning curve. The resistance was steeper, and far more ruthless than anyone expected.
That resistance came from a single source. Whether or not they directed the actions of what went down in the Capitol hasn’t been owned, and never will be. Things were said and done that were not professional, courteous, or in service of any dyslexic child.
To clarify, this group is not made up of parents. Yes, of course many if not most are parents, but not all of them are dyslexia parents. They are a group that speaks for the educational side of things. They are stand alone, not ISD affiliated, but their people work within various ISD’s across the state. In Texas they have the greatest membership out of any other state by far. To be a member requires enormous personal sacrifice of both the time and funds necessary to obtain the licensure necessary for membership. To seek this licensure is not for the faint of heart and not a whole lot of people make it through because of the investment.
So, to be clear the people championing the bill are parents and the people opposed to the bill are educators. Also, the mouth piece for the resistance chose to say that this was parents being anti-this particular licensure. Nothing was further from the truth, but that’s one of the wholly wrong and misguided statements that was part of the propaganda against the bill.
While the fight in the House was a unanimous win for the parents who had banned together, the defeat in the Senate was a lesson in politics, and the engendering of fear.
From the very beginning the story that played out was that our dyslexic children would be relegated to a Resource Room, with children of various needs, not to be taught how to read and write, not remediated, but left in a black hole to wither and eventually graduate, illiterate and traumatized by the experience.
Many were appalled at this argument and the fear mongering it engendered about Special Education, yet despite numerous challenges, including from House Representatives who knew better, it happened none the less.
Lies were told, with no data to back it up ever presented, that 75% of Texas families WANTED 504 services for their children. I pushed back on this argument and was told that while they didn’t have data to support the 75% claim, I didn’t have data to say that they didn’t. Well, that statement is a solid dismantling of their lie and an attempt to spin me into not disavowing their lie which didn’t work.
While the parents who had banned together worked the House hard, the resistance were working the Senate. The Senate sponsor was not interested in supporting the bill, but only interested in ensuring the bill did not pass. Working in unison with the Lt. Governor, another individual invested in ensuring the bill died, they turned it from an eighteen-page bill to a two-page study, gutting the entirety of what would have made a difference for our children, and let the Senate vote on his version instead, which is what passed the Senate.
When the House passes one version of a bill, but the Senate passes another, the two must meet in committee to hammer out the differences and come to a single resolution. Racing against the clock of the end of the term, the whole bill had been a race to beat deadlines, and now with the final deadline looming, the House immediately assigned the House bill’s sponsor to the committee, but in the Senate, the Lt. Governor intentionally let the clock run out without assigning a Senator to the committee, thereby killing the bill.
With finality for this legislative session….
But no one has given up.
The next legislative session is fourteen months away and we will run the gauntlet again.
We won’t underestimate the Senate, or the voices of dissension.
We are all prepared for the SpEd black hole argument.
Personally, I thank those who taught the lessons. They definitely went into this with a superior attitude, but they underestimated their opponents. It was a valuable learning. I can speak for myself at least when I say, I won’t be outplayed again.
I’m going to stop writing here. I know this is incredibly long, but the story of parents versus the Texas Dyslexia Establishment is far from over, and before I sign off I want to leave you with a couple of images to solidify the issues in Texas, and state that it’s not the sunshine and roses many would lead you to believe.
Changes are happening to the Texas Dyslexia Handbook, some of which look promising, but I will withhold my thoughts until I see the final published version. Sorry, been there, done that, and will never celebrate again until after it has left the printers office.
Our children are failing. They cannot read on grade level. What we’re doing inside of our schools is not working for the majority of our dyslexic children.
This is the truth of things, and sometimes the truth is a bitter pill.
We must change education if we have any hope of saving our dyslexic children, every single one of them.
Footnote: Texas has paid one fine of $277 million to the Fed for the failure in Special Education, and another $33 million has recently been levied for the 2012 year. That’s $310 million to date. If they fine $33MM per year for each of those 9 years that's $297MM, so that would be $574MM in fines. Do we really want to continue to ignore our educational responsibilities under IDEA?
Read more here: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Students-denied-special-education-failing-schools-14831755.php
Note: The handbook is currently being revised again. The goal is to lead with the FIE.