What's happening

Austin ISD issued a response to the Texas Education Agency seeking an informal review regarding the assignment of a conservator over the special education department.

The informal review requested by the district will be made by the TEA, AISD Board President Arati Singh said. Singh said if the TEA assigns a conservator following the informal review, the district will have an opportunity to file a petition for review with the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Once the SOAH makes its decision, there will be no more opportunities for review, and the SOAH's decision will be final.

What officials are saying

“We understand the severity of this problem and take full ownership in addressing it,” AISD interim Superintendent Matias Segura said in a released statement on April 17. "We want to ensure the best possible alignment between our efforts as a district and the efforts of the state for the ultimate benefit of our students.”

Segura said district leaders believe the least disruptive way to build momentum toward improvements to special education is to allow time for the comprehensive special education plan—which was developed this spring—to take hold.

What the report says

"AISD has continuously failed to meet special education requirements under federal and state statutes regarding initial evaluations, eligibility, [individualized educational plans], placement determinations, and the provision of special education and related services to qualifying students," the report reads.

How we got here

This all follows a notification that was released by the TEA on March 31 that it would pursue a conservatorship of AISD due to the district's backlog of special education evaluations and failure to complete past TEA corrective measures. Those conservators would have the ability to make binding resolutions. However, the board and Segura would remain in place. The board has held meetings since then to allow members of the district and stakeholders a chance to weigh in on what they would like the district to do moving forward regarding the conservatorship. During those meetings, members of a labor union for AISD employees, Education Austin, spoke out against the TEA takeover, citing what they would like to see from the district is money to fill the positions to support the students.

The plan

Segura and Singh have both said Austin ISD was already in the process of working with the TEA to improve services for these students. In addition, Singh also said the board is working more collaboratively with these entities than it has in the past.

“We welcome collaboration and support from TEA and our community to continue our forward momentum and deliver on our promise to address the backlog and establish a sustainable system that best supports our students,” Singh said in a released statement on April 17.