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The bill would require the Higher Education Coordinating Board (Board) to coordinate among the Page 1 of 2 Board,autism programs, school districts, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, and other state agencies providing evidence-based behavioral services to children with autism spectrum disorder in the state regarding best practices for delivering those services. The bill would require the Board to maintain a statewide autism database of information regarding the number of children served through each autism program and through each state agency providing evidence-based behavioral services to children with autism spectrum disorder in this state, the effectiveness of those programs and services, statewide best practices for the delivery of those programs and services,and the identification of underserved regions of the state with regard to those programs and services. The Board would submit to the legislature a report on the information maintained in the database annually.
This analysis assumes that three FTEs would be needed to implement provisions of the bill. A program director would be needed to oversee the installation and operation of the database,as well as oversee the issuance of the annual report. A program specialist and administrative assistant would need to be hired to maintain the database and respond to requests and facilitate the production of the report. Total salary, benefits and overheard costs for these FTEs is estimated to be $202,414 per year.
HB 3282, if passed, would modify the Education Code (Chapter 61) regarding the services offered to students with autism spectrum disorders. The first part of the bill merely adds a set of relevant definitions regarding the proposed regime. The more substantive part of the bill would establish a statewide autism database report, managed by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. The Board would submit annual reports to the Texas Legislature on the information available in the database (specific information regarding procedures and content may be found in the bill). The coordination of services would be between the Board, autism programs, school districts, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, and other state agencies.
We recognize the motivation behind HB 3282 and understand that individuals with autism spectrum disorders represent a unique class of citizens. Strictly speaking, the creation of a database, in and of itself, does not affect any of our principles in either a positive or a negative way. Nevertheless, the proposed cost of the program, at over $200,000 a year seems excessive for an operation which supposedly deals with pre-existing data and coordinates with other groups.
We are inclined to believe that the same goals can be achieved by private entities. Perhaps the state has a roll, but the cost presented here is problematic. We suggest amending the bill to stipulate that funding be provided only by gifts, grants, donations, and other similar measures. This would increase accountability and keep costs down. Ultimately, weighing the factors involved, we are neutral on HB 3282.