HOUSTON (FOX 26) - The nation's 7th largest school district delivers special education services to a little more than 7 percent of its students—a rate dwarfed by the national average approaching 14 percent. The revelation shocked almost everyone, except parents of disabled children within HISD.
In defense of the district's intentional denial of therapy, treatment and guidance, Special Education Director Sowmya Kumar made a statement to Houston Chronicle Reporter Brian Rosenthal that many find astonishing.
"Special education does not deliver better outcomes for kids," said Kumar.
In other words, addressing disabilities isn't worth the investment.
"I would think that everyone would be outraged by Ms. Kumar's statements. They make no sense," said Dustin Rynders of Disability Rights Texas, who battles to get students the services they are entitled to by law.
"To compare test scores of children with disabilities to children without disabilities, and to act surprised that the children with disabilities have lower scores, is really asinine," said Rynders.
Bob Sanborn, who leads the statewide advocacy group Children at Risk, says Kumar couldn't be more wrong and thousands of kids are paying the price.
"I think an important way to put this is that we are shortchanging a lot of kids in Texas and certainly in the Houston Independent School District. We are shortchanging too many of our children," said Sanborn.
Sanborn, who has worked diplomatically for years to improve results at HISD, took the extraordinary step of calling for Kumar's immediate departure.
"We need to have a person who understands the job, to do the job. Obviously Kumar is not up to the job," said Sanborn.
Responding to a request from FOX 26, HISD spokesman Jason Spencer issued the following statement:
Viewed in the full context of an hour-long interview conducted several months ago, it is clear Ms. Kumar believes academic achievement is most impacted by the individualized services and educational interventions provided to students. HISD's priority is to meet every child's unique needs, regardless of whether they are labeled as "special education." HISD is committed to working with all parents to ensure that their children are in the appropriate educational environment and that they receive all the resources they need to thrive. Any parent who has concerns about the services their child is receiving is encouraged to contact their principal.