Policy Recommendations to Improve Educational Outcomes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

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Office of the Texas Governor, Governor's Committee on People with Disabilities

Policy Recommendations for the 88th Texas Legislature to Improve Educational Outcomes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Public School Students

For Deaf and Hard of Hearing Texans attending K-12 public schools, their educational success is dependent on both the quality of their teacher’s instruction and the quality of their sign language interpreter. A lesson given by the best math or science teacher in the district will not have the same educational impact for a Deaf student who has been assigned an unqualified sign language interpreter.

In 2022, the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities (GCPD) conducted a survey on educational interpreters. According to GCPD’s survey data, one of the most common reasons sign language interpreters do not choose to pursue a career in educational interpreting or leave the field is low pay. School bus drivers in 25% of Education Service Center regions are paid more per hour than educational interpreters. Additionally, educational interpreters are paid $10-$40 less per hour than sign language interpreters in other fields. The GCPD survey on educational interpreters can be found on the GCPD webpage.

In the 2018-2019 school year, 24% of Texas’ Deaf and Hard of Hearing students attended Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf (RDSPDs). However, the current RDSPD state allocation has not changed since 1995, despite increases in expenses and the number of students served. The lack of a funding increase for RDSPDs has directly impacted the ability of schools to recruit, hire, and retain qualified educational interpreters.

Many Deaf and Hard of Hearing students want to receive direct-instruction from teachers who use sign language. However, teachers who want to be credentialed to teach through sign language are limited to the TASC and TASC-ASL exams which are only given a few times a year. In effect, many teachers become certified as a Teacher of the Deaf without the ability to teach in sign language.

To ensure Deaf and Hard of Hearing students get the education they deserve, we recommend the following policies:

  • Increase the state allocation for RDSPDs.
  • Establish a pay rate for educational interpreters that is competitive and accounts for regional costs of living by rule.
  • Expand the testing options for teachers who teach through sign language.
  • Require routine monitoring of Teachers of the Deaf to ensure they are credentialed.

Policy recommendations are just the first step toward improving the quality of education for deaf and hard-of hearing students in Texas.  There is still time for these crucial policies to become effective legislation.

House Committee on Public Education      Senate Committee on Education

The above recommendations are included in the full 2024-2025 GCPD Biennial Policy Recommendations for the 88th Legislature found on the GCPD webpage.