A District Guide to TSBVI

Information about who we are and what we do including summer, short-term, outreach, and K-12 comprehensive program services. Description of eligibility for our programs and costs associated with them.

Table of Contents

  1. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)
  2. Three-Part Legislative Mission
  3. Program Descriptions and Access to Services
  4. Supporting Local School Districts with Provision of a Free Appropriate Education (FAPE)
  5. Length of TSBVI Placements
  6. TSBVI’s Relationship with Education Service Centers
  7. TSBVI’s Relationship with the Texas Workforce Commission Programs: Texas Workforce Solutions – Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS) 
  8. Cost to Local School Districts or Parents for TSBVI Services

1. Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)

The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) was established in Austin and funded by the Texas Constitution and Legislature in 1856. Since then, TSBVI has served students who are blind, visually impaired, and deafblind throughout Texas.

2. Three-Part Legislative Mission

In 1995, the Texas Legislature passed a comprehensive set of statutes establishing the School as a state agency with a governing board appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. This legislation defined TSBVI’s three major educational roles within the State of Texas:

  1. Serving students with visual impairments in an on-campus overnight program;
  2. Conducting supplemental programs; and
  3. Providing statewide services to parents, local school districts, educational service centers and other agencies. Education Code 30.021

More information about the school is available on the TSBVI website (

3. Program Descriptions and Access to Services

TSBVI has established three educational departments to implement its three-part legislative mission:

  • Outreach Programs
  • Short-Term Programs
  • Comprehensive Programs

3.1 Outreach Programs

The Outreach Programs of TSBVI serve as a statewide resource on the education of students who are blind, low vision, and deafblind for families and professionals. Information about requesting Outreach support is available by phone at 512-206-9268 or 512-206-9242 or on the Outreach Programs page of the TSBVI website.

The TSBVI Outreach Staff performs a variety of functions:

  • Consultation on Student Programming. The staff consults with local school districts on student programming, implementation of evidence-based practices, and transition planning, in coordination with regional education service centers. A request for individual student consultation or local teacher training must come from the local school district staff.
  • Family Support. TSBVI Outreach supports families of children who are blind, low vision, or deafblind to gain access to resources, connection to other families, and needed training. Families can request information, home consultation, assistance to attend training, and/or helpful connection to other families.
  • Statewide Training. The staff provides local and regional workshops, sponsors on-campus workshops and statewide conferences, online courses, and live and archived webinars. Request training.
  • Publications and Materials. The Outreach Program produces original materials, including a quarterly newsletter – TX SenseAbilities (in print and on the website), instructional modules, webinars and a variety of distance learning materials. To request a subscription to the TSBVI quarterly newsletter for families and professionals, please go to TX SenseAbilities.
  • Technology Loan Program. Subject to availability, local school districts may borrow specialized technology for use by individual students for up to one school year by completing a technology loan application. The technology loan program administered through the TSBVI Outreach Department is available to any local school district within the state of Texas.
  • VI Registration Coordination. TSBVI provides guidance and coordination of the statewide registration of students with visual impairments and the DeafBlind census.
  • APH Materials Distribution. Specialized materials from the American Printing House for the Blind may be ordered from the TSBVI Outreach Program using federal quota funds to provide VI specific materials to eligible students.
  • Coordination of Professional Mentors and Support for Professional Preparation ProgramsTSBVI provides professional mentorship to new teachers of students with visual impairments and certified orientation and mobility specialists. This is accomplished in collaboration with universities and regional education service centers that recruit and train new professionals in the field.

Visit Outreach Programs

3.2 Short-Term Programs

Short-Term Programs offers various group and individualized classes for students with visual impairment on a rotating schedule. These brief classes provide instruction in a variety of topics to address needs in academic, social, and independent living skill areas. In on-campus programs, students travel to Austin and participate with visually impaired peers from across the state. In our distance learning programs, students access instruction using a computer while remaining in a local school program. The Short-Term Programs department is subdivided into two distinct programs:

  1. Short-Term Programs. A wide range of classes are offered during the regular school year for students who are on or close to grade level. The in-person classes are usually 3-5 days long and offer intensive instruction and training in academic areas and the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) including social and independent living skills.  Distance learning classes and individualized instruction are offered online so that students do not have to leave their home districts. Eligible students must be referred by their local school district; usually the student’s Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI). Referrals are made online via the Short-Term Programs referral form.
  2. Summer Programs. A wide range of summer enrichment programs are offered on-campus and serve students of all levels and ages from elementary through high school. The classes may change from year to year to meet the interests and needs of the state’s visually impaired student population. Classes range from a few days to several weeks in length. The Summer application is available online at the TSBVI website between January and the February 14th deadline. Although a summer application does not require a local school district referral, the TVI is asked to complete the application with supportive information from the family.

Questions about Short-Term Programs and Summer Programs may be directed to [email protected]

3.3 Comprehensive Programs

  • On-Campus Educational Programs. TSBVI’s Comprehensive Programs include the School’s on-campus K-12 educational program and the 18+ Experiences in Transition (EXIT) program. Students enrolled in these Comprehensive Programs are referred by a local school district Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee. Students who are admitted to TSBVI attend school during the regular two-semester school year and do not attend TSBVI during the summer.  If a student requires extended school year services, those services will be provided by the local school district; TSBVI does not provide extended school year services. Students attend school on the TSBVI campus and return home on most weekends during the school year. Students who live a reasonable travel distance to the TSBVI campus are enrolled as day students with daily transportation provided by the local school district.
    • Eligibility Requirements. To be eligible to attend TSBVI, the student must be a resident of Texas who has been determined by the local school district’s Admission, Review and Dismissal (ARD) Committee to be visually impaired or DeafBlind. Additionally the student must meet the following criteria:
      1. 21 years of age or younger, and 5 years of age or older on September 1 of any school year; and
      2. require specialized or intensive educational or related services related to the visual impairment.

TSBVI is not intended to serve students whose:

  1. needs are appropriately addressed in a home or hospital setting or in a residential treatment facility; or
  2. primary, ongoing needs are related to a severe or profound emotional, behavioral or cognitive deficit; or Education Code 30.021
  3. conduct resulted in a removal to an alternative education program or expulsion the preceding year;
  4. being declared delinquent or in need of supervision and is on probation or other conditional release for that conduct; or
  5. conviction of a criminal offense and is on probation or other conditional release. Education Code 25.001(d)
  • Campus Tours. Local school district staff, parents and students interested in learning about TSBVI’s Comprehensive Programs may tour the TSBVI campus. Visitors are welcome to schedule a guided tour of the campus facilities, including educational, recreational and dormitory facilities to learn more about campus services. To arrange a tour, please contact Admissions Coordinator by phone, 512-206-9182, or by email to [email protected]
  • Student Referral for Admission. To start the referral process, TSBVI must receive a referral from the local school district ARD committee. Upon receipt of a referral, the TSBVI Admissions Coordinator will communicate by phone with the designated local school district representative and follow up by sending an application for admission. This will include a request for information such as the student’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), evaluations, medical reports and other important documents.
  • TSBVI Referral Committee Decisions and Notification. After receiving the student application and other documentation requested, the TSBVI Referral Committee will review all information to determine if the student is eligible for services at TSBVI, and if so whether it appears that the student is receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) from the local school district (see section 5, below). For students who are eligible for TSBVI services and appear to need TSBVI admission in order to receive a FAPE, TSBVI will notify the local school district and parent that the student will be admitted and begin collaboration efforts with the local school district and parent to prepare for transitioning the student to TSBVI. An ARD meeting will be scheduled to address the change in location for IEP services prior to the student’s enrollment at TSBVI. If, upon review of the information provided by the local school district, the student appears to be receiving a FAPE in the district, or not eligible for TSBVI services, TSBVI will communicate with the district to ensure that all relevant referral information has been considered and make a final determination whether or not to admit the student and notify the local school district of this determination.
  • Resolution of Differences. If a local school district does not agree with the determination of the TSBVI Referral Committee, the district may call the TSBVI Director of Center for School Resources for additional discussion about the referral and/or may seek resolution through the Texas Commissioner of Education and the Texas Education Agency or through any due process hearing to which the local school district or school is entitled under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (20 U.S.C. Section 1400 et seq.)

4. Supporting Local School Districts with Provision of a Free Appropriate Education (FAPE)

A student’s local school district is responsible for ensuring that each of its students receives a free appropriate public education (FAPE). Depending upon the needs of the student, any of TSBVI’s three program options may be considered by a local school district. The overarching role of each of TSBVI’s three educational programs is to assist local school districts in ensuring that all students with visual impairments receive a free appropriate public education. We are a placement option on the continuum provided by all districts in Texas.

TSBVI and local school districts collaborate together at varying levels of intensity depending on the student’s needs.  A student’s local school district has the long-term responsibility for providing the student with a FAPE. It may be that, during the student’s educational career, the local school district enlists the special services of any one of TSBVI’s programs (Outreach, Special Programs, Comprehensive Program) to meet the student’s special needs for educational and related services identified at the time of the local school district’s request and/or referral for services.

Outreach services support the local school district’s capacity to provide FAPE through consultation and training. Short-Term Programs can support the local school district’s capacity to provide FAPE through direct instruction provided through intensive short-term classes on the TSBVI campus or through distance learning opportunities. Comprehensive Programs is designed to assist local school districts by admitting students to TSBVI for the provision of a FAPE on a time limited basis.  During the student’s enrollment at TSBVI the local school district and TSBVI collaborate to provide services and prepare for the student’s return to the local school district or transition on to a post secondary setting.

5. Length of TSBVI Placements

5.1. Entitlement to Free Appropriate Public Education for Students with Visual Impairments

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires the State of Texas to ensure that all eligible students with disabilities receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE)  and recognizes that intensive programs focused on visual impairment needs, such as those at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired may be appropriate for meeting this requirement.

The Texas Education Agency is responsible for ensuring that students with visual impairment have an opportunity for achievement equal to the opportunities afforded their non-disabled peers with typical vision and that local school districts have the flexibility of meeting the needs of students with visual impairment through short-term or long-term services through the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI). Education Code 30.002

Local school districts may consider TSBVI along with the continuum of other statewide alternative placements to ensure that a student with a visual impairment receives a free appropriate public education.

5.2 FAPE and LRE Concerns for Local School Districts when Considering IEP Services at TSBVI

The State of Texas public education system serves about 11,000 students with visual impairment. Only a small number of these students can be served at TSBVI at any one time. When a local school district determines that a student has specialized and intensive needs for services related to the visual impairment, the district may consider a referral to TSBVI. Two factors are central to this consideration: Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and Least Restrictive Environment (LRE).

  • Free Appropriate Public Education. The purpose of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is to ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living.
  • Individualized Education Program. To provide a FAPE, a local school district must develop an IEP that provides the student with access to specialized instruction and related services that are individually designed to provide educational benefit to the student.  The student is not entitled to receive the maximum potential benefit but the educational program must be reasonably calculated to enable the student to make progress appropriate in light of the student’s circumstances. These standards are very important in TSBVI’s consideration of student admission, continued placement and return to the local school district.
  • Least Restrictive Environment. In looking at the continuum of placement options available to meet the student’s needs, the local school district must look for the setting that can provide the student’s FAPE that is also the least restrictive environment in which FAPE can be provided. The student’s ARD committee must ensure that the student is educated to the maximum extent appropriate with children who are nondisabled; and that a setting like TSBVI occurs only if the nature and the severity of the disability preclude satisfactory achievement of education in the regular classroom with the use of supplementary aids and services.

5.3 Length of Student Enrollment in TSBVI Comprehensive Programs

The IDEA reflects a strong preference for the student to be educated in regular classes with the student’s nondisabled peers with appropriate supplementary aids and services. To this end, Commissioner Rule requires that, when a student’s ARD committee refers the student to TSBVI, the local school district is required to list the services in the student’s individualized education program which TSBVI can provide and to include in the student’s IEP the criteria and estimated time lines for returning the student to the local school district. 19 TAC 89.1085 (c)

In accordance with Commissioner Rule and the IDEA’s preference, when a student is admitted, TSBVI collaborates with the student’s local school district to prepare for the student’s return back home to the district for further programming. In some cases it is appropriate for a student to transition directly from the TSBVI Comprehensive Programs into adult life without returning for programming in the local school district. In these situations, TSBVI will actively collaborate with local school district staff and family to plan for the student’s successful transition into adult life. The local school district remains responsible for each student’s transition.

Occasionally, a student may continue enrollment at TSBVI for a longer time period. Reasons for this include lack of availability of appropriately trained staff or other essentials for the provision of FAPE in the local school district. Throughout this time, TSBVI will continue to actively collaborate with the local school district and family so that the district can prepare for the student’s return home to receive a FAPE as soon as appropriate staffing or other essential needs have been met.

  • Collaboration with Local School Districts, Education Service Centers, Texas Workforce Commission, and Other AgenciesFrom the time a student is accepted for admission, TSBVI focuses on developing a strong partnership with the staff of the student’s local school district, the Educational Services Center serving the student’s local school district, and Texas Workforce Commission and other agencies or entities that support the student and the student’s family. The goal of this extensive collaboration is to support the local school district’s efforts and abilities to provide the student with a FAPE upon the student’s return to the district. During the student’s enrollment, TSBVI not only provides the instruction and IEP program the student needs to ensure a FAPE, but also collaborates intensively with the local school district, other agency staff and the student’s family to prepare for the student’s return to the local school district. Collaborative activities include:
    • facilitating onsite visits by TSBVI and local school district staff;
    • conducting specialized assessments;
    • developing effective strategies for student instruction to enhance learning both at TSBVI and within the local school district
    • identifying student’s individualized needs for:
      1. Special Education Services
      2. Related Services
      3. Supplementary Aids and Services
      4. Program Modifications
      5. Identifying and training staff that will be needed when the student returns to the local school district program
  • When the local school district is prepared to provide a FAPE, the student will return to a local program. Being prepared to provide FAPE does not mean that the local school district will provide the student with precisely the same level of services or the same opportunities to benefit from education that were provided while at TSBVI. It does mean, though, that the local school district is able to implement an IEP reasonably calculated to enable the student to receive educational benefit. Because TSBVI is a center of expertise for the education of students with visual impairment, TSBVI is able to provide a level and intensity of services not typically available in local school districts. Sometimes, it is difficult for parents to accept that the services offered by the local school district when the student returns does not match what was offered at TSBVI. In order to maximize the educational benefit and ensure a successful return to a local school district program, TSBVI strives to work collaboratively with the local school district teams throughout the time the student is enrolled at TSBVI. Continued support from TSBVI is also available to local school districts following the student’s return back to a local school program in order to assist the districts and student with the transition.

6. TSBVI’s Relationship with Education Service Centers

The State’s Education Service Centers (ESC) were created by the Texas Legislature to assist school districts in improving student performance to operate more efficiently and economically, and to implement initiatives assigned by the legislature to the Texas Education Agency. TSBVI partners with ESCs to support the needs of all students in Texas with visual impairments. ESCs are informed when a local school district makes a request for services from any of TSBVI’s programs and similarly when a student transitions back to a local program. ESCs collaborate directly with TSBVI when Outreach services are requested. The ESC may also provide assistance to local school districts in funding transportation and per diem costs related to Outreach staff consultations.

7. TSBVI’s Relationship with the Texas Workforce Commission Programs: Texas Workforce Solutions-Vocational Rehabilitation Services (TWS-VRS)

  • Outreach ProgramsOutreach Programs actively link with TWS’ Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) to serve students and their families across the state. VRS staff are invited to participate in local school consultation visits. Workshops are often co-sponsored with VRS, especially for topics relevant to family members. The quarterly TX SenseAbilities newsletter is an ongoing joint effort between TSBVI and VRS. This close collaboration with VRS benefits all students with visual impairments.
  • Short-Term ProgramsTWS-VRS works with TSBVI to distribute information about Special Programs throughout the state. As a co-sponsor, TWS-VRS is specifically involved in administering the TSBVI summer vocational Summer Work Experience in Austin Texas (SWEAT) program.
  • Comprehensive ProgramsWith adult student or parent permission,TWC caseworkers are invited to attend student ARD committee meetings and to visit a student while at school. TWC has a critical role in facilitating training and other opportunities outside of the school for students and families such as independent living skills, self-advocacy, vocational preparation and transition to adult life.

8. Cost to Local School Districts or Parents for TSBVI Services

8.1 Outreach Program Services Costs

Certain expenses may be associated with Outreach services:

  • Registration Fees. TSBVI charges a registration fee to help cover the costs of conferences.
  • Transportation Costs. A local school district may pay for the transportation costs of Outreach staff coming to their district for technical assistance or training.
  • Consultation Services. Consultation fees may be requested for certain Outreach services.

8.2 Short-Term Programs Costs

Certain costs may be associated with Short-Term Programs:

  • School Year Short-Term Programs. Short-Term Programs, including transportation costs, are provided by TSBVI at no cost to the local school district or parent.
  • Summer ProgramsThere are no costs for students to attend a summer program; however TSBVI does not support transportation to the summer programs and the responsibility for transportation costs remains with the local school district or family.

8.3 Comprehensive Programs Costs

There are two costs to the local school district for a student enrolled in the Comprehensive Programs of TSBVI:

  • Student’s EducationThe local school district shares in the cost of the student’s education when the student is enrolled in TSBVI. The amount of the cost per student will vary from district to district and is determined by dividing the district’s local maintenance and debt service taxes by the district’s average daily attendance for the preceding year. Each local school district provides the Texas Education Agency (TEA) with the information necessary to make this calculation.  TEA then deducts the local school district’s amount from the foundation school funds payable to the district and remits the district’s share to TSBVI. If the local school district does not receive foundation school funds, TEA directs the district to remit the payment to TEA and TEA then remits the local school district’s share to TSBVI. The local school district never sends a payment directly to TSBVI. Education Code 30.003
  • Student Transportation Costs. The local school district is responsible for providing transportation to TSBVI from the student’s home. For day students that live in the Austin area this is daily transportation. For student’s that live too far away the local school district is responsible for travel for the student at the beginning and end of the school year, and at each of the TSBVI school holidays when TSBVI is closed. There are eight school closings in a typical school year. The cost to the local school district depends on distance, mode of transportation, and whether the student’s ARD Committee has determined that an escort is required to accompany the student. In some cases the student’s parent serves as the escort and transportation provider; the parent is reimbursed by the local school district for the cost of the transportation. 19 TAC 89.1090

Information related to costs to parents includes:

  • Education, Room and Board at No Cost to Local School District or Parent. The costs of the student’s education and related services, room and board at TSBVI are funded by TSBVI (through state appropriations) at no cost to the parent or the local school district.
  • Parent CostsThe student’s education is free to the parent. The student’s medical treatment is the responsibility of the student’s parents. Parents are encouraged to provide students with an “allowance” for personal items and special recreation activities, although most recreation activities are funded by TSBVI.