|Mary Durheim, Chair
Andrew D. Crim, Vice Chair
Beth Stalvey, MPH, Ph.D., Executive Director
|6201 E. Oltorf, Suite 600
Austin, TX 78741-7509
|Phone: (512) 437-5432
Toll-Free: (800) 262-0334
Fax: (512) 437-5434
Senate Higher Education Committee
Public Testimony on Senate Bill 1017
March 27, 2019
Hello, my name is Ashley Ford and I am a Public Policy and Communications Specialist with the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD). TCDD is established by state and federal law and is governed by 27 Governor-appointed board members, 60 percent of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities.
The primary role of TCDD is to advocate for responsive policies and programs that ensure Texans with developmental disabilities have the opportunity to live, work, and contribute to the community of their choice. As part of our activities, the Council typically funds 25-30 grant projects every year. TCDD’s projects are based on an ongoing analysis of the service system, public input, and Texans’ needs. Projects are funded to demonstrate and test new ideas on effective ways to empower Texans with developmental disabilities; they may also provide technical assistance and training. The Council’s activities are designed to impact the entire state and are developed in close collaboration with people with disabilities, families, advocacy groups, state agencies, service providers, and state and local policymakers. Each of these projects has increased the Council’s understanding of effective methods and practices.
TCDD’s Higher Education Efforts
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities supports the position that the full, meaningful inclusion of Texas students with developmental disabilities should be approached as a fundamental value and underlying principle by which we educate all students. Since TCDD was established in 1971, the Council has consistently advocated for and funded grant projects that improve the integration and inclusion of Texans with developmental disabilities at work and school.
The Texas Legislature has created opportunities for Texas to be attractive to business, drawn in part by a workforce educated by our world-class university systems. TCDD has created opportunities for these businesses to find Texans with developmental disabilities among that educated, prepared workforce. Many of TCDD’s higher education-related projects have been nationally recognized as promising practices worthy of study and/or expansion, and for your reference I have attached a document with short summaries of the most recent Council-funded higher education projects.
Such higher education projects have demonstrated that students with developmental disabilities can successfully attain higher education and gain competitive integrated employment when provided with access to and supports for academic and career development experiences. These projects have also demonstrated that collaboration between students with disabilities, parents and guardians, state agencies, high schools, service providers, institutions of higher education, and business and industry is necessary.
Statewide Collaboration Needed
If institutions of higher education are to be expected to decrease the barriers students with developmental disabilities and their families experience, then new statewide efforts must be established. The advisory council that would be created through SB 1017 would foster collaboration and would allow stakeholders to aggregate their efforts and expertise. By coordinating efforts and discussions that are already occurring throughout Texas communities, schools, colleges, and state agencies, the advisory council would be an efficient way for the Texas Legislature to enhance the success and meaningful inclusion of students while minimizing duplicative and ineffective practices.
TCDD believes that this effort to create an advisory council on the higher education of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) is timely. Federal policies including the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act of 2014, and the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 have offered meaningful opportunities to strengthen our education system and economy. The advisory council created by SB 1017 could bolster the state’s effective implementation of and optimize compliance with these federal policies.
Recent state initiatives would also be complemented by the advisory council, including Texas’ Employment First policy and the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) Special Education Strategic Plan.1,2 It could also help address the recommendations included in the 2016 report to the Governor by TEA, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). This report highlights the recommendation of regional leaders from education, industry, government, and nonprofits to expand and improve the training and hiring of people with disabilities, and urges Texas to “focus on providing meaningful career training and work for all students, including those with disabilities, so that all students gain the marketable skills employers desire” (11).3
Gaps to Address
Despite years of investment in special education, substantial progress has been impeded by the limited opportunities for youth with developmental disabilities. According to the “Postsecondary Programs and Services for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” inventory, only fifteen higher education institutions have programs for students with IDD.4 Less than a quarter (24.39%) of 2015 Texas high school graduates who were receiving special education services when they left high school enrolled in higher education within one year of leaving high school.5 This is the lowest rate of higher education attainment among all demographic subgroups.
60x30TX was launched in 2015 to improve higher education attainment in Texas, but the majority of THECB activities and initiatives related to 60x30TX have failed to include or account for Texans with IDD.6 These activities and initiatives include, but are not limited to: the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac7, the Tracking K12 Outcomes dashboard8, the Generation TX movement9, the College For All Texans portal10, and the Texas Reality Check calculator11. For example, the Texas Public Higher Education Almanac and Tracking K12 Outcomes dashboard do not provide any data on the postsecondary outcomes of students with IDD. In addition, the College For All Texans portal does not include information about applying for vocational rehabilitation assistance through TWC or about federal student aid available for students with intellectual disabilities through a comprehensive transition and postsecondary (CTP) program12
THECB’s 2016 and 2018 “Report on the Recruitment of Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at Public Institutions of Higher Education in Texas” concluded that institutions do not have enough resources or staff devoted to identifying and recruiting students with IDD.13,14 While the purpose of these biennial reports is to “identify previously made recruitment efforts, limitations on recruitment and possible methods for recruitment” for people with IDD, the findings of these reports have taken up just barely two pages. Having a designated advisory council to evaluate and recommend outreach and recruitment efforts could improve the quality and usefulness of future reports.
We should also recognize that research suggests that increasing access to higher education opportunities for students with IDD not only benefits students with IDD, but also benefits students without disabilities. For example, inclusive college classes have led to greater comfort among students without disabilities during future interactions with students with disabilities.15 Inclusive higher education has also been found to positively shift the attitudes on diversity and acceptance of people with disabilities among students without disabilities.16 These are marketable skills that are desired by business and industry.17
In summary, having an advisory council to improve the attainment of higher education among students with developmental disabilities through ongoing collaboration will be beneficial on multiple fronts. TCDD finds the aims of SB 1017 to be consistent with our guiding principles and position statements on education, employment, and transition from school to adult life.18,19
Please feel free to contact TCDD for additional information or if we can be of additional service.
Public Policy and Communications Specialist,
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities
1. Texas Government Code, §531.02448(a)
2. Texas Education Agency. (2018). Special Education Strategic Plan. Retrieved from https://tea.texas.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=51539621194.
3. Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Texas Workforce Commission. (2016). Prosperity Requires Being Bold: Integrating Education and the Workforce for a Bright Texas Future. Retrieved from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/8738.PDF?CFID=51855767&CFTOKEN=57218823.
4. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Postsecondary Programs and Services for Students with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities website. Retrieved from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/apps/IDD/.
5. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. (2016). Indicator 14: Post-School Outcomes. Retrieved from https://osep.grads360.org/#report/apr/2016B/Indicator14/HistoricalData?state=TX&ispublic=true.
6. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2018). 60x30TX Progress Report. Retrieved from http://www.60x30tx.com/media/1406/2018-60x30tx-progress-report.pdf.
7. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2018). The Higher Education Almanac. Retrieved from https://www.paperturn-view.com/us/thecb/2018-almanac?pid=MTI12406&v=2.1.
8. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Tracking Postsecondary Outcomes dashboard. Retrieved from http://reports.thecb.state.tx.us/approot/hs_college/hs_college_main_launch.htm.
9. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. GenTX website. Retrieved from http://gentx.org/.
10. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. College For All Texans website. Retrieved from http://www.collegeforalltexans.com/.
11. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Texas Reality Check website. Retrieved from https://texasrealitycheck.com/.
12. U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid Office. Students with Intellectual Disabilities webpage. Retrieved from https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/eligibility/intellectual-disabilities.
13. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2016). Report on the Recruitment of Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at Public Institutions of Higher Education in Texas. Retrieved from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/8601.PDF?CFID=95790497&CFTOKEN=98879751.
14. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. (2018). Report on the Recruitment of Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities at Public Institutions of Higher Education in Texas. Retrieved from http://www.thecb.state.tx.us/reports/PDF/11625.PDF?CFID=95790497&CFTOKEN=98879751.
15. Griffin, M., Summer, A. H., McMillan, E. D., & Day, T. L. (2012). Attitudes toward including students with intellectual disabilities at college. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 9, 234–239.
16. May, C. (2012). An investigation of attitude change in inclusive college classes including young adults with an intellectual disability. Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 9, 240–246.
17. Kaplan, M. & Donovan, M. (2013). The inclusion dividend: why investing in diversity & inclusion pays off. Brookline, MA: Bibliomotion.
18. Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities. Mission and Guiding Principles webpage. Retrieved from http://www.tcdd.texas.gov/about/mission-and-guiding-principles/.
19. Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities. Position Statements webpage. Retrieved from http://www.tcdd.texas.gov/public-policy/position-statements/.