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Shapleigh Wants Federal Investigation into EPISD

El Paso State Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D) isn’t giving up on his claim the El Paso Independent School district is sweeping some students under the rug to improve standardized test scores.

In fact, he’s now asking the federal government to investigate what he calls a “national scandal.”

Shapleigh made his allegation against district officials clear to ABC-7.

“They’re cheating,” he said. “They’re taking these students out of the classroom on test day.”

The Senator says after complaints from teachers and a year of research and open records requests, he found in 2007, Bowie High School’s freshman class comprised of 381 students.

But the following year, only 167 took part in TAKS testing as sophomores.

Shapleigh says the other 214 students were “disappeared” by EPISD. The students were either transferred to other schools, held back in 9th grade, or, in some cases, sent back to Mexico.

EPISD confirms 19 of the students did return to their home country. But Superintendent Dr. Lorenzo Garcia says it wasn’t to bring up TAKS scores.

“We protect our taxpayers’ money,” he told ABC-7. “If students bring attention to themselves by misbehaving and we call home and there’s no one there and it’s a fake address? Then yes, we do remove those students.”

After years of low test scores, Bowie found itself on the verge of closure if it didn’t fix things. That also meant Bowie students were given the option to switch to other campuses.

The Superintendent says many of the 214 students in question chose to transfer. Others dropped out entirely.

Garcia also points out the Texas Education Agency reviewed Shapleigh’s concerns and found no wrongdoing on the district’s part.

Shapleigh says the state agency isn’t always reliable.

“The T.E.A. is a broken agency,” he said. “They did not come and spend a year (looking through) these files.”

Garcia says with 90% of EPISD’s schools declared recognized or exemplary, including Bowie, now is a time to celebrate, not investigate.

The Superintendent also questions the Senator’s timing. Garcia says he thought both parties had worked everything out during a meeting back in January.

“I met with him,” said Garcia. “He agreed to drop his attacks on Bowie and EPISD. But unfortunately, he’s changed his mind. Why? Because the election is right around the corner.”

That ‘election’ is EPISD’s tax ratification election scheduled for next Tuesday.

Shapleigh is opposed to the proposed tax increase in part because of his concerns over Bowie and Garcia’s handling of the district.

The Senator will hold a news conference Friday morning.

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