Texas Education Agency back in the headlines over special education firing

Aliyya Swaby:

Both allegations are devastating for special education advocates and parents who had hoped for a turnaround after a Houston Chronicle investigation last year found that agency officials were denying special education services to thousands of Texas students.

“A lot of parents are feeling just very distraught and once again very betrayed by TEA,” said Cheryl Fries, co-founder of the advocacy group Texans for Special Education Reform, which was first to raise concerns about the contract this fall.

Fired after just three months on the job, Kash came to Texas from the Rainier School District in Oregon, where she was special education director. Two instructional assistants brought a civil lawsuit against her on Nov. 14, claiming she encouraged them to hide allegations of sexual abuse of a six-year-old and threatened them when they refused.

When the TEA terminated Kash, officials said she did not disclose that information during the hiring process.

“The existence of allegations of this nature, given her roles and responsibilities, prevent her from carrying out her duties effectively in Texas, and the agency has terminated Dr. Kash’s employment. Dr. Kash has no business being in charge of special education policy and programming in Texas,” TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said in a statement.

Kash denies the lawsuit’s allegations. She said TEA fired her because she had been vocally critical of a contract TEA awarded in May to the Georgia-based company SPEDx to analyze private data about how students are receiving special education services in Texas public schools. In the Nov. 21 federal complaint, Kash argued SPEDx did not qualify for a no-bid contract since other private and public entities could have provided the service. She said the TEA did not publicize its justification for awarding a no-bid contract to the company in the spring, as state law requires.