Friday, February 16, 2007

Preschool program for the visually impaired is in jeopardy!

The Arizona Legislature is considering eliminating the funding for a preschool program that serves about 75 blind and visually impaired children in the Phoenix metro area.

A state agency recommended axing more than $1 million in state funds for the preschool program at the Foundation for Blind Children.

The proposal came from the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, which cited "cost and liability issues." The proposal is part of the state's budget, which has to be approved by the full Legislature and signed by the governor.

For more than two decades, the Foundation for Blind Children has contracted with the state agency to provide preschool instruction.

The foundation's annual budget of about $7 million is funded by grants, school districts and contributions.

The children in the program put together puzzles, work on motor skills, and take field trips to grocery stores and post offices to learn how to use touch, sound, and smell to discover the world around them.

Chris Tompkins, who runs the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, said the proposed budget cuts caught him by surprise. The last time he said he heard discussions about the state agency pulling out of the agreement was November.

"They were only discussions," he said.

He said there have never been liability issues raised in the foundation's 33-year history.

Hal Hoff, the superintendent for Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, said in an e-mail statement that the two organizations must work out issues between themselves.

But if they don't, the 75 blind and visually impaired preschoolers would have to turn elsewhere for an education and four teachers would be without jobs.

State documents suggest that affected students could be absorbed by their local school districts, which could contract with the foundation or another agency for services.


Post a Comment

<< Home