Seven Years and Millions of Children Later, U.S. Dept. of Education Announces Continued Monitoring of Texas

6.9.23: Article first published. 6.21.23: Article updated to include IDEA Part C October 5, 2020, DMS Monitoring Report; September 20, 2021, DMS status letter and response chart; and May 2, 2023, DMS closeout letter.

U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs announced it will continue its years-long monitoring of Texas Education Agency.

May 4, 2023, OSEP Director Valerie Williams issued a letter to TEA Commissioner Mike Morath, stating OSEP discovered TEA has been investigating Austin Independent School District for more than a year, “due to the district’s years-long backlog of special education evaluations, as required by the child find and evaluations requirements (34 C.F.R. §§ 300.301-306).”

The content of OSEP’s May 4, 2023, letter isn’t a surprise, although the letter being listed as a “DMS Close-out Letter” is an eyebrow raiser. TEA has a long history of failing to address the unique needs of children and providing them a free appropriate public education.

“Science of Reading” Is Important, But Can We Please Talk About Occupational Therapy’s Role in Reading Interventions?

The “science of reading” is a trending topic nationwide, as school divisions reevaluate what they thought they knew about reading and how they’ve instructed students.

However, being taught the necessary skills to read and write involves more than teaching children encoding and decoding. It involves learning how to hold a book and a pencil, tracking words on a page or screen, learning what strategies to use when fatigue or frustration overcome them, learning how to best advocate when they are struggling, identifying assistive technology to help them and teaching them how to use the assistive technology, and identifying and providing the specially-designed instruction needed to teach students this other side of reading and writing, and how to practice and perfect it.

U.S. Dept. of Ed. Proposes Rule Change to IDEA; Seeks to Remove Parental Consent Connected to Medicaid; Public Comments Open Until August 1, 2023

Unites States Department of Education Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services is proposing a rule change under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, “to remove the requirement for public agencies to obtain parental consent prior to accessing for the first time a child’s public benefits or insurance ( e.g., Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program) to provide or pay for required IDEA Part B services.”

This proposed change is open for public comment until August 1, 2023.

U.S. Dept. of Education to Investigate VA Dept. of Education’s Response to Fairfax County Public Schools Civil Rights Violations; What Actions has VDOE Taken with “Similarly Situated” Districts?

United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs announced its continued investigation into Virginia Department of Education will include examining VDOE’s “response to the Department’s Office for Civil Rights findings that Fairfax County Public Schools failed or was unable to provide a free appropriate public education to thousands of students with services identified in the students’ individualized education programs during remote learning. Specifically, OSEP would like to learn about the actions the State has taken, or plans to take, with similarly situated districts in light of these findings.”

The announcement came in a May 12, 2023, letter from Valerie Williams, director of OSEP, to Lisa Coons, VDOE’s new superintendent of public instruction and is a follow up to OSEP’s February 17, 2023, letter to Coon’s predecessor Jillian Balow, which announced OSEP would be conducting additional monitoring activities, to include an on-site investigation. According to the May 12 letter, the on-site will occur during the week of September 25, 2023.

The Curious Case of Virginia Dept. of Education’s State Complaint Findings: Determining Nature of Specially-Designed Instruction During Eligibility

Virginia Department of Education has a long history of engaging in incomplete state complaint investigations, making irregular decisions following its state complaint investigations, and/or ignoring credible allegations of noncompliance altogether.

United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs has noted VDOE’s problematic state complaints a few times, in differentiated monitoring support letters dated June 23, 2020, February 8, 2022, March 16, 2022, September 1, 2022, January 17, 2023, and February 17, 2023.

Yet, VDOE’s state complaint process remains as bizarre as ever, with VDOE’s investigation decisions reading as if VDOE didn’t so much a peek at the evidence—more Ace Ventura than Sherlock Holmes.

In this case, VDOE makes a statement of noncompliance, but then finds Fairfax County Public Schools in compliance for that exact action.

Virginians: $1,500 and $3,000 Grants are Available to Help Your Children

Qualifying students in Virginia can receive grants of $1,500 or $3,000 for tutoring, specialized therapy, and/or assistive technology, to help address the impact COVID-19 had on academic and mental health. The grants do not have to be paid back, however they must be spent within a specific period and can be pulled if not used with 30 days of the grants being provided.

Learn who is eligible and how to apply.

VA Dept. of Ed Opens Systemic Investigation into Fairfax County Public Schools: Team Composition

May 11, 2023, Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) issued a Notice of Complaint (NOC) regarding Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) being in noncompliance regarding composition of IEP and eligibility team members.

The complaint alleges that specifically, since at least 2017, FCPS has engaged in the following: a) holding IEP meetings that are in noncompliance with IDEA and implementing state regulations; b) unauthorized practice without a license; c) unlicensed “diagnosis and treatment of human physical or mental ailments, conditions, diseases, pain, or infirmities”; d) procedural violation of Parent’s and Student’s opportunity to participate in the decision-making process regarding the provision of FAPE to Student.

Fairfax County Public Schools Says Parents Aren’t Eligibility & IEP Team Members; VA Dept of Education Refuses to Investigate

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is in noncompliance with 20 U.S.C. 1414(b)(4), Sec 300.306, Sec. 300.305, Sec 300.321, 8VAC20-81-80(B), 8VAC20-81-80(C)(1), 8VAC20-81-80(D)(1), 8VAC20-81-80(D)(2), 8VAC20-81-80(D)(9).

In other words: FCPS is in noncompliance for refusing Parents rights’ to be deciding members of eligibility and IEP teams.