Schools for the deaf in jeopardy in NY

March 9, 2011 2:37:04 PM PST
Officials at a school for the deaf in Greenburgh say budget cuts could force it to close.

"The comfort level that I have with communication and socialization makes me feel like this school is my second home," said Kayla Deegan, a freshman at the 194-year-old New York school for the Deaf.

And all that, say students, is now in jeopardy. To help close a 10-billion dollar state budget gap, Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to eliminate direct funding for the state's deaf and blind schools.

That would lead to closure, says the executive director, whose vocal chords were damaged in a car accident during her youth.

"The deaf community is outraged. Outraged. They feel it's immoral what is happening. This is probably the largest attack or threat upon deaf schools nationally in the history of deaf education," said Janet Dickinson, the director of the school.

Instead of direct funding, the governor's plan calls for individual school districts to seek reimbursement after determining which students need the specialized education.

"Unfortunately, people that are not involved in the deaf community don't understand that it's just not enough to have an interpreter in the classroom with hearing children," said Felicia Napier, a teacher at the school.

In a statement, a spokesman for the governor's budget office said, "The executive budget proposal controls spending growth while continuing to support services for disabled students by making the method of funding consistent for all private special education schools."

Four bus loads of students, their families, and faculty members will head to Albany on Thursday to meet up with supporters from 10 other deaf and blind schools across the state, all of them with a simple, concise message for lawmakers - save our schools.