LoHud (New York)
Written byRobert S. Cole
March 16, 2011
Re “Reforming funding for 4201 schools is the right thing to do,” a Community View published Thursday about proposed state funding cuts for schools — commonly called “4201s” — that serve blind and deaf students:
One can almost assume, after reading state Budget Director Bob Megna’s above article, that a second line of the headline was omitted because of spacing problems on the page. Indeed, readers might be inclined to think the missing line was: “. . .
If government doesn’t care about effectively educating deaf and blind students.”
This sentiment against the proposal to shift responsibility for educating students with sensory disabilities from the state to local school districts by
otherwise well-intentioned Gov. Andrew Cuomo was very much in evidence at a populous rally in the well of the Legislative Office Building on Thursday.
More than 1,000 deaf and/or blind students, their parents, teachers and other advocates from all over the state participated in the rally. All thought the
proposal was, for want of a better word, a lousy idea. So, too, did the two or three dozen legislators who spoke against the governor’s plan.
The legislators — including local Sens. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Jeff Klein, and Assemblymen Mike Spano and Tom Abinanti — opined that this was a bad solution to government red ink at the wrong place and time — one that WILL be rejected. I hope they’re right.
If not, thousands of children with sensory disabilities will fall under the clutches of teachers ill-prepared to address their needs or even communicate
with them because they don’t know sign language. It is too bad that Mr. Megna and others on Gov. Cuomo’s staff couldn’t hear the scores of deaf children
telling rally attendees about their horrible experiences in public schools and their positive experiences in schools for the deaf. In the former scenario,
they were isolated individuals surrounded by people who spoke a language that was inaccessible to them. In the latter, they had friends, teachers who were trained in deaf education and better learning results. Moreover, Mr. Cuomo’s proposal merely moves financial burdens from the state to more seriously budget-challenged localities. This will ultimately cost taxpayers more as the localities incur added costs and recipients of an inferior education will require more government assistance after they graduate. This, therefore, raises three questions for Andrew Cuomo.
One: Governor, you benefitted from having an education provided by people trained to teach you and your peers (namely hearing and sighted students), you learned much from conversations with your classmates and you were enriched by cultural and athletic activities at the schools you attended; why don’t you want deaf and blind children to have the same benefits?
Two: Do you want to be remembered as a governor who addresses budgetary challenges by withholding basic services from his state’s most vulnerable citizens?
Three: Is Time Magazine correct when it notes in its March 14 edition cover story that government tackles economic problems by “targeting programs that have neither a wide base of support nor influential interest groups behind them”?
It is also worth noting that I think Mr. Megna is wrong when he wrote: “We need to apply the same discipline when examining funding for 4201 schools as
we use for any other part of the budget.”
Nonsense, unmitigated nonsense! All budget lines are NOT equal in need or importance. To treat all alike is a lazy, irresponsible and ineffective way to
manage a budget.
There has to be a better and more equitable way for New Yorkers to cope with the economic status quo. And Andrew Cuomo has shown himself in the past to be more caring about — and capable of addressing — key societal issues.
I sincerely hope a second look at the proposal and a thoughtful review of the comments made at last week’s rally will produce a better response to funding 4201 schools.
The writer, who lives in Bronxville, describes himself as a “self-appointed advocate for people with disabilities and the parent of a daughter who is deaf.”
He is a former board member of the American Association of People with Disabilities and a Steering Committee member of Westchester Disability Advocacy Partnership.