AUSTIN, Texas — Texas officials aren’t doing enough to fix systemic problems with special education in schools across the state, according to a U.S. Department of Education letter sent to the Texas Education Agency late last week.

Texas submitted a corrective action plan in April after federal officials determined that the state illegally set up what amounted to a cap on the number of students receiving special education. While 13 percent of students across the nation are in special education programs, Texas officials pushed school districts to admit no more than 8.5 percent of their students into those programs, the federal authorities found after a study prompted by a Houston Chronicle investigation published in 2016.

The federal agency says the state must begin reviewing special education policies at a sampling of Texas schools, prove how it will ensure the school districts communicate information about the district’s responsibilities to parents and how it will determine if schools are non-complaint. The Office of Special Education Programs plans to visit Texas early next year to further monitor the state’s progress and vowed to review the state’s efforts.

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The corrective action plan was estimated to cost the state $212 million over the next five years as it sought to increase school monitoring to ensure districts are meeting special education laws, train teachers and staff, increase family engagement and find previously unidentified students who may be eligible for special education services.

Education officials expect it will take years and billions of dollars to bring special education services up to national standards. In the 2017-2018 school year, the state budgeted $5.1 billion to provide special education services to 477,281 students, or 9.2 percent of all students, state records show. The state estimates it will need to serve an additional 189,000 students over the next three years.

Andrea Zelinski contributed to this report.

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