AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District confirmed its special education department has been under investigation by the Texas Education Agency for more than one year. The investigation is tied to the district’s years-long backlog of special education evaluations.

The most recent data provided by the district shows it is behind on nearly 1,800 special education evaluations, including initial and re-evaluations the district needs to do in order to identify students with disabilities and children who need additional support or services.

The data was from a count done Jan. 26.

The TEA said it provided notice to the district it was under investigation in November 2021. It came after a federal protection and advocacy agency Disability Rights Texas filed a lawsuit against the district alleging it was “failing students with disabilities because its evaluation system is broken” and in violation of state-mandated timelines.

The TEA amended its investigation notice in July 2022, according to the district.

In an interview, Interim Superintendent Matias Segura said the district has been meeting with TEA staff about the backlog regularly over the course of the year. Segura said the district’s biggest challenge is maintaining enough staff to complete the evaluations.

“We are sorry. This is a problem that has been going on for quite some time,” Segura said on Feb. 9. “We have about 70 positions of which only 23 are filled.”

In a statement, the district spokesperson described the backlog and the system as ‘dynamic’ with the backlog fluctuating from month to month. In January, the district reported receiving 119 evaluation requests. But nearly one year ago, last March, it received triple the requests.

”This is not a six-month fix this is an 18-month fix to really get it where it needs to be,” Segura said.  ”It is a significant amount of work and it is the focus in my time here as interim superintendent.”