AUSTIN (KXAN) – Some parents are speaking out after Austin ISD announced they are asking for a review of the special education department.
AISD district leaders began the process of appealing the state appointment of a conservator management team to oversee its special education operations on Monday.
“We would like to instead have a monitor in place which is one notch below a conservator,” Austin ISD Board President Arati Singh said. “Allow us to have a monitor for a year and then revisit the conservator option.”
The difference between the two levels of intervention is decision-making power. A management team, according to the TEA website, can direct the operations of a district in areas of insufficient performance. In contrast, the monitor reports to the TEA on the activities of the school board and superintendent.
“I am disappointed in the district’s response,” AISD parent Leah Kelly, whose daughter receives services from the special education department, said. “Our kids have the opportunity to get help now and simply acknowledging the problem doesn’t address the students’ needs now.”
Kelly says there are more issues than just a backlog.
“We are not denying the fact that we have a backlog and our special education system needs support,” Singh said.
The agency’s final investigative report on the district showed the results of 43 investigations into its special education department since 2020. The agency found a “repetitive and pervasive pattern of violations.”
“It is our education so it is really important,” Pablo Fabian Morales, who is a junior at Akins High School, said.
Morales was diagnosed with dyslexia and relies on accommodations.
“It is definitely harder for me because I am taking dual enrollment,” Morales said.
“We found out last year that his accommodations were not being met,” his father Peter Morales said.
While Peter wants change, he said he is hoping the district can right the ship under new leadership and an interim superintendent who is a product of AISD.
“I think we need to give the superintendent a chance,” Peter Morales said. “I think some state intervention at some point might be something that should be considered. I think we need to work hand in hand with the people we elect and the people we put in charge.”
District officials have not denied the state of its special education evaluation backlog – and have largely blamed the delays on staffing challenges.