Senator Lucio's Letterhead

PRESS RELEASE FROM SEN. EDDIE LUCIO, JR.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez , Press Secretary
Phone: (512) 463-0385

SENATE APPROVES BILL FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES, INCLUDING AUTISM

AUSTIN, TX -- Yesterday the full Senate approved another bill by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. to assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) through the creation of training institutes for teachers and paraprofessionals who teach students with all types of disabilities, including autism.

"Senate Bill 840 by Senator Lucio addresses one of the most common concerns we hear from parents and teachers who have no training or experience in working with their child who happens to have a disability," said Kay Lambert, Education Policy Specialist with Advocacy Inc., an agency that advocates for the legal, human and service rights of people with disabilities in the state.

Debbie Deluna, an Hidalgo County parent of a nine-year-old boy, Javier, with cerebral palsy who receives special education services and support in a regular third-grade classroom, said, "I believe that these new training institutes are critical to make sure every kid has an equal opportunity to learn. Providing teachers with training on current research-based practices will help them do their job and will help our children succeed."

SB 840 would direct the Commissioner of Education to develop these institutes that would implement research-based education practices in their classrooms. The training would be voluntary and stipends would be awarded upon completion. Federal requirements mandate that students with disabilities be educated in the "least restrictive" environment. Most disabled students spend all or part of their school day in general education classrooms.

"Sen. Eddie Lucio has come up with an effective way to improve educational services quickly for students with disabilities, particularly for students with autism and related disorders. Teachers and teacher aides are eager for better training to help them meet these students' needs," explained Eric Hartman, Director of Government Relations with the Texas Federation of Teachers.

Sen. Lucio noted, "We want our students to spend as much time as possible in general education classrooms with teachers who have the academic expertise. SB 840 is a win-win for everyone: teachers, students with disabilities and their classmates."

"This bill to provide research-based training for both teachers and aides responds to the number-one educational priority identified by the state autism council. It is modeled after the state reading academies that speeded improvements in students' reading achievement," added Mr. Hartman. "Teachers and paraprofessionals alike appreciate very much the stipends that will accompany the training. We hope the House quickly follows the Senate's lead in passing Sen. Lucio's bill."

"I anticipate that SB 840 will result in greater academic achievement of special needs students, better management of the classroom and an overall positive classroom environment," added the Senator.

The bill is headed to the House for consideration.

Note: Ms. Perla Cavazos, senior policy analyst, handles SB 840 for the Senator and can be reached at 512-463-0127.

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