McDonnell Sees The Need
Governor Aims To Fund Education Programs For The Blind, Visually Impaired
Posted: January 2, 2013
HARRISONBURG — Programs for the blind or visually impaired are the only ones under the special education disability category that do not have programs funded by the state.
But Gov. Bob McDonnell wants to change that with a $4.9 million budget amendment for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1 of this year. The money would cover staffing needs for teachers, teacher’s aides and other staff working with visually impaired students. The proposal, which must be approved by the General Assembly, is based on a recommendation by the Virginia Board of Education. This year’s General Assembly session begins Jan. 9.
Across the state, special instruction is provided for the state’s approximately 1,000 blind or visually impaired students. But funds to pay for the instruction are not included in the Standards of Quality funding model, used to determine special education funding, a press release from the governor’s office says.
Just how McDonnell’s proposed amendment would specifically affect individual divisions has not been determined.
Harrisonburg City Schools has 15 students enrolled who are classified as blind or visually impaired, Superintendent Scott Kizner said, but the division only has one vision teacher and one aide proficient in Braille.
Scott Hand, director of pupil personnel services for Rockingham County Schools, said two teachers are employed full time to provide instruction to the division’s blind and visually impaired students and the division does use state funding to pay a portion of their salaries.
“This [$4.9 million] would apparently allow for full salary reimbursement,” Hand said.
Twenty-two students in county schools are classified as blind or visually impaired.
Despite the uncertainty over how the funding would affect local schools, area educators are thankful for the possible extra money and hope the amendment would help pay for enhancements to existing programs.
“What we’re actually hoping is that there will be additional funding for extra services for students,” Kizner said. “If we receive more additional aid, then we would probably look at hiring what’s called an orientation and mobility instructor.”
Added Hand: “Students with vision needs sometimes require a specialized [Braille machine], Braille paper or modifications to our computers, such as enlargement of print [and] occasionally there is a cost involved. We would certainly tap into that source of funding.”
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