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Garland school board receives proposal to enhance special education, dyslexia programs

Garland school board receives proposal to enhance special education, dyslexia programs
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Debi Buchanan, Garland ISD’s executive director of special education, presented an overview of the district’s special education and dyslexia programs to the Board of Trustees Tuesday night, followed by an outline proposal designed to enhance both programs moving forward.

The special education department provides a wide range of services that start as early as birth and for some students go on until they’re 21.

Buchanan reported that there are 14 disability categories, and special education student numbers have declined from 2011 to 2016; however, the trend began to reverse during the 2017-18 school year.

The special education department receives funding from a federal grant – Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA Part B) and local budget funding.

“Although we receive federal funds the IDEA Part B grant was never intended to fully fund special education. These federal funds are actually designed to supplement the budgets that the state and local school district provide for special education instruction,” Buchanan said.

The federal grant amount from 2011 to 2018 has declined by just under $4 million, and the local special education department budget has increased by $63,000, but the increase in local funds have not been able to offset the cuts from the federal level, she reported.

The number of students identified with dyslexia in GISD has increased from 56 in 2011 to 586 students in 2018.

“With the new state-mandated K1 dyslexia screener, next year we expect this number to increase even more,” Buchanan said.

In order to enhance dyslexia instruction in GISD she proposed hiring additional dyslexia therapists, have additional options to their dyslexia instruction, and districtwide training.

She requested an amendment to the spring 2018 special education budget of $836,037, and a requested a budget of $3,095,610 for the 2018-19 school year.

“Part of the plan was to start addressing the need for the identified kids that we have for dyslexia. We have about a 1 percent identification rate; the national average can be 5 percent up to 11 percent,” said Superintendent Ricardo López. “With that 1 percent we have a waiting list for services and we’re backlogged on the amount of people that are being assessed to see if they have dyslexia.”

A former GISD student and now parent, Stephen Yearout, went before the board of trustees during the public forum portion to speak on the district’s dyslexia program.

He said when he was in school there were no programs for dyslexic students, and 30 years later students are using an outdated program that is video-based and not taught by teachers.

Yearout said 20 percent of the population has dyslexia and cited a report done by the University of Texas – Galveston that shows 48 percent of Texas inmates have dyslexia, and yet the district is showing less than 1 percent.

“We are under-identifying, underserving, and we’re failing our kids that have dyslexia,” he said.

Yearout added that the proposal to enhance the program presented by Buchanan is a necessity for the district.

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