In 2004, under then-governor Rick Perry, the Texas Education Agency secretly instituted a plan to cap the number of students receiving special education support at 8.5% — far less than the national average.
In order to achieve this goal, the state forced teachers to illegally, systematically deny care to children, including speech therapy, psychological counseling, physical therapy, and access to therapeutic tools (for example, at least one student who was born without functional hands was denied the laptop he needed to do his schoolwork).
Many of those kids went on to drop out, but Texas also leads the country in its pipeline for kids sent to mental institutions, and the Houston Chronicle’s six-part series on the policy also documents suicides and attempted suicides.
All along — and even now — the state and the local school districts deny that the policy exists, despite the testimonies of parents, students, and long-serving principals and teachers who quit rather than go along with orders. The state and local education authorities have also illegally refused to respond to public records requests.
Despite this stonewalling and lying, the Houston Chronicle has pieced together a damning, thorough documentation of the Rick Perry legacy: tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of children who were denied the education they were entitled to, who ended up uneducated, institutionalized, overmedicated, or dead — all to save the state more than a billion dollars it was required, by law, to spend on its children. As you might expect: this policy landed disproportionately on racialized brown and black children.
Rick Perry is no longer governor of Texas: now he’s America’s problem, as Trump’s pick for Secretary of Energy.