To Spend, or Not To Spend

Remember little Angel from Texas who was denied service to special education from my first post?

Justice finally came.

Last Thursday, a federal court has ruled that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) owes the federal government $33.3 million for reducing its spending on special education in the 2011-2012 school year.

How did this happen in the first place?


As a special education teacher by training in the U.S., I was in admiration that the U.S. had been able to pass legislations that secure the educational rights for students with disabilities in the public school system, knowing that in China, my home country, a list of cognitive disabilities had not even been fully recognized as disabilities in education policies. I never doubted that incident like Texas TEA would ever happen because “that is the law”. However, the reality is-educational services, while has been well invested via public expenditure, it is still a recourse in scarcity. Thus, different stakeholders compete for it. Funding cut from special education usually goes towards general education within the area education agency.

Another might sound uncomfortable, but possibly plausible rationale for such law-violating practice is-investment in education for individuals with disabilities has a much less return compared to such investment in education for normally-developing kids. Employment chance for individuals with disabilities is much lower than that for the general population after all, given the available employment opportunities.

But, should one’s potential and the right to live a fulfilling life calculated solely on his or her ability to produce future income?

The answer is so intuitive that is often overlooked by stakeholders such as Texas TEA.

And if even federal laws cannot set up the stage for individuals with special needs to progress towards that goal, what else can attribute to our positive psychology toolbox?

While Angel and his cohort can celebrate the intermittent victory over TEA for now, I am in great eager to wonder-how will Texas TEA pay for the $33.3 million?

They will have to spare their pennies in general education then.

So, here is the hard question-will students in general classrooms be just fine with that reduced $33. 3 million? Don’t they also have the very same right to receive quality education as well?

Why are students always the ultimate victims of the distorted decision-makings from the officials?

Now let’s take a step back and reflect on that last question.

If you are also feeling the sense of discouragement or even anger, you probably also fall into the undetected trap of thinking either 1) the quality of education can only be increased by additional funding or 2) the inadequacy in the quality of education must be a result of insufficient funding.

Here is my cost-efficient alternative attempt to ease the payment: Texas TEA needs to equip the teachers with more effective instructional strategies to meet the diverse educational needs of students with special needs. Both general education and special education teachers should be included in such training. Thus, general education teachers know how to better teach students with “unidentified” special needs along with the normally-developing peers. And, special education teachers are more confidence in keeping up with the instructions in special education classrooms without major upgrades on costly instruments such as devices and new curriculums.

That just sounds desperate, I know.

But who would have thought about the cut in the first place?


Jayanetti, C. & Savage, M. (2018, November 10). ‘Devastating’ cuts hit special education needs. The Guardian. Retrieved November 11, 2018 from

Ament, J. (2018, November 9). Court finds Texas owes millions, after under-funding special education. Texas Standard. Retrieved November 11, 2018 from

Phillips, C. (2018, November 8). Appeals court agrees Texas owes federal government millions for special education. Texas Public Radio. Retrieved November 11, 2018 from

O’Neil, J. (2018, August 21).Texas saved billions cutting special education. Now the bill comes due. Bloomberg. Retrieved November 11, 2018 from

Rosenthal, B. (2018, January 11). Texas illegally excluded thousands from special education, federal officials say. The New York Times. Retrieved November 11, 2018 from


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