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July 23, 2003

School for impaired faces cuts

From: Charleston Post Courier, SC - Jul 23, 2003

Services for deaf, blind non-students among casualties as state funds dry up

Associated Press

SPARTANBURG--State budget cuts have forced a reduction in some of the services offered to non-students by the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind.

The school's budget has been reduced by 14 percent in the last three years, to $11.7 million.

The school's main campus here and six outreach centers across the state educate and assist more than 800 people up to age 21 who are visually impaired, deaf or have a disability in addition to being blind or deaf.

The outreach centers also provide non-students with such services as sign-language interpreters or sign-language classes.

In recent months, 38 staff members have left the school and their positions remain open.

"I've seen four major staff positions just at the School for the Blind leave since we've come here," said Nancy Reedy, whose family moved from Catawba in York County to Spartanburg two years ago so her son, Stephen, could live at home while attending the school.

The school has been able to give Stephen an education which he couldn't have gotten from home schooling and private tutors, Reedy said.

She worries that, because of state budget cuts, her son might not continue to get the quality of education and services he needs to reach his goals.

The school has cut mainly services to non-students to try to keep as many teachers as possible, said Sheila Breitweiser, school president.

But students will be getting less individual attention this year, Breitweiser said.

The school also won't be ordering many new textbooks, and no books for enjoyment, she said.

The budget cuts also mean teachers won't get training in new teaching software and other technology, Breitweiser said.

The school can't afford the software, equipment or training, she said.

This will affect students more than any other budget-cut problem, Breitweiser said.

Technology "really makes their lives more simple, more productive," she said, and it helps students learn more in the classroom.

Reedy said the education and socialization Stephen has received at the school has opened him up, making him more confident and independent.

When she saw her son on the playground with other students, she saw for the first time in his life he was a part of something.

"I don't want to lose that."

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