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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A Texas official has apologized after he called special education students “slow learners” and questioned whether it’s worth spending public money on their education.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that Scott Brister, chairman of the Texas Commission on Public School Finance, expressed regret over his comment after meeting this week with the special education advocacy group Texans for Special Education Reform.

Brister was criticized after asking at a meeting last week if the state should spend special education dollars “on the brightest kids or the slow learners.”

Brister says he never meant to question whether students with disabilities are worth educating.

Texans for Special Education Reform said the organization appreciates Brister’s apology “and the time he took to learn about our children and the children we work for.”