Debate Grows Over Shuttering Costly School For Blind
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 22, 2006
DES MOINES, IOWA--The state of Iowa spends $4 million each school year to house 34 blind students at the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, while about $1 million goes toward providing services to 525 other blind students across the state.
Some state officials are talking about closing the facility and either establishing group homes for the students; creating regional centers to support the students and their families in their hometowns; developing an academic program at the University of Northern Iowa for middle and high school students; or transferring the students to join 130 students with hearing-related disabilities housed at the Iowa School for the Deaf.
However, according to the Des Moines Register, the Legal Center for Special Education is warning that closing the school would violate the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
"The law mandating a full continuum of placement options, including specialized residential schools, has been the established law of the land for more than three decades," the center's legal director Curt Sytsma wrote in the memo.
Since the IDEA became law, the enrollment of students in segregated, specialized settings has plummeted, as states have moved toward more inclusive education models. The number of students in the Iowa school has dropped by 50 percent in the past two decades.
While some lawmakers are saying that it is not financially responsible to spend so much money on the small number at the aging facility -- which was built in 1862 -- Ellyn Ross, president of the state's Division on Visual Impairments, said that no other states have closed all of their residential schools for blind students.
"Law may require that the school for blind stay open" (Des Moines Register)