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State budget proposal threatens St. Mary's School for the Deaf

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By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-954304.mp3

Buffalo, NY – St. Mary's School for the Deaf is one of 11 specialized schools across the state that serve deaf, blind and disabled students. But the governor's budget would dramatically alter how these 4201 classified schools are funded.

Nearly all their direct state aid, $98 million of the $118 million total for all 11 schools, would shift to public school districts.

Tim Kelly is Superintendent for St. Mary's. He said they hope to change the governor's mind. "This is obviously unprecidented and proposed, we think, with haste," said Kelly. "We would want to work with the governor's office...to make sure we have a fair, equitable and predictable funding stream so we can deliver the services to our students."

He said the bigger problem with the governor's plan is that decisions about how - and where - deaf students are educated also would shift to public school districts.

That could mean many students being kept in the school districts rather than being sent to St. Mary's. Kelly said St. Mary's is better qualified to identify and meet the special needs of deaf students.

"All of our teachers here are highly qualified and at our school our studnets have direct access to communication," said Kelly. "All of our teachers are certified teachers are certified teachers of the deaf and hearing impaired. They are also certified in their subject areas."

Kelly said he is optimistic that 4201 school officials and advocates will be able to reach a compromise with lawmakers and the governor. A rally is planned for March 10 in Albany.