Lucio Masthead Graphic
February 26, 2009
Contact: Doris Sanchez, Press Secretary
(512) 463-0385
Bill Responds to Parents of Students with Disabilities

In response to concerns by parents of children with disabilities about inadequacies in the classroom, I filed a bill that would improve these students' academic experience while providing training for teachers.

The Senate Education Committee recently heard Senate Bill 100, which would ensure teachers access to more uniform and current training in working with students with disabilities, including those with autism spectrum disorders.

Joining my effort are Chair of the Education Committee, Sen. Florence Shapiro and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, who signed on as co-authors.

The federal regulation requiring that students with disabilities be taught in the "least restrictive environment," means most of these students spend all or part of their school day in general education classrooms. Hence, there is a need for proper training of teachers and paraprofessionals.

However, too many teachers and paraprofessionals lack the necessary training or experience to teach students with disabilities. Others have not had the opportunity to stay current on the latest information. Since trainings in Texas vary greatly in availability and quality, teachers instead rely on inadequate in-service and on-the-job training to teach pupils with a variety of disabilities.

SB 100 would provide educators with the latest research-based training for the classroom. The instruction would be voluntary and carry stipends upon completion.

Primarily, SB 100 highlights the need to support teachers who work with autistic children because Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a serious developmental disability, is the fastest growing in the United States. It impacts an estimated one in 150 children. Over 23,000 children in Texas with ASD received services in 2008, a 15 percent increase from 2007.

The classroom environment must not only be appropriate for these youngsters, but also include the latest and most promising academic and behavioral techniques.

Under my bill, the training institutes would be developed by the Texas Education Agency and modeled after Texas' highly successful reading and math academies for teachers. The institutes would maximize all state teacher training dollars by building on high-quality programs already in existence.

A coordinated program would also more fully address Congress' reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) in 2004 by requiring that all personnel working with disabled students have "the skills and knowledge necessary to improve the academic and functional performance of children with disabilities..."

The community response to this bill is overwhelmingly positive, as evidenced by the fact that all public, voluntary witnesses spoke in favor of the bill at the hearing. I look forward to working with my colleagues to determine how this bill can be funded.

Ultimately, Senate Bill 100 would increase the academic achievement of our students and the success of our teachers by providing them with the best methods of instruction and behavior management.

As always, if you have any input or questions regarding these or other matters, please do not hesitate to contact Doris Sanchez, my Communications Director, 512-463-0385.