Breaking News
More () »

Austin ISD could see conservator team in place by late summer 2023

After the TEA proposed a conservatorship on Friday, AISD said it could see a team of conservators for special education in place by late summer 2023.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced on Friday night that Austin ISD could be put under a state conservatorship for special education. This comes after concerns that the district was not completing enough evaluations students needed to receive special education.

"The State has a legal duty to ensure that students with disabilities have their needs met, and quite frankly, Austin ISD had failed at that," said Steven Aleman, a senior policy specialist for Disability Rights Texas.

But Austin ISD acknowledged it was lacking.

"We welcome collaboration with TEA to help us catch up on long overdue evaluations and strengthening our special education services,” said Arati Singh, Austin ISD board president.

Disability Rights Texas said Austin ISD has fallen much further behind on its evaluations than other school districts, which is why the TEA had to step in to appoint conservators.

"For some reason, the issue in Austin seemed to be deeper in many respects, in terms of both the number of students affected, as well as how long and prolonged the problem has been," Aleman said.

Austin ISD said the lack of evaluations is in some part due to the lack of educational diagnosticians and licensed specialists in school psychology, who are required to perform these evaluations. There are only 250 licensed in Central Texas, and Austin ISD needs over 50 of them. 

"We have 72 positions and only 21 of them were filled," said Matias Segura, Austin ISD interim superintendent.

The district said to combat these current deficiencies in evaluations, it is creating more incentives to hire specialists and expanding the hours for evaluations. But Disability Rights Texas said the conservators will be a necessary step to get children with disabilities the support they need.

"For a child with a disability, the sooner that we can begin interventions, the more likely the success of mitigating the effects of that impairment," Aleman said.

The TEA will be appointing two to three conservators in salaried roles. Austin ISD estimates those conservators could be put in place by late summer 2023

"They will be within the Special Education Department, but their recommendations will be binding," Segura said.

Austin ISD estimates the conservatorship would last 18 months. The district has until April 17 to appeal the conservatorship decision, but it said it welcomes the collaboration for its students.

District officials wanted to assure the community that nothing will be changing.

“When you go back to school Monday, things will be the same. Your teacher will be there, your class will be there,” Singh said. 

Austin ISD also assured that the conservatorship would not look like the Houston ISD takeover because it only applies to special education. Also, the conservators would be working in collaboration with the special education team, so no roles would be taken over. The trustees and interim superintendents would still be in place. 

Austin ISD will be holding a special meeting on Monday to discuss the proposed conservatorship. You can sign up to record your comments for the 6:45 p.m. meeting by calling 512-414-0130 between 7:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Monday.

Melia Masumoto on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram  

KVUE on social media:Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Before You Leave, Check This Out