Superintendent: Veto of Senate Bill 170 a good thing

My Journal Courier

August 28, 2011 7:00 AM


An amendatory veto to a bill offering more latitude in the way of hiring new teachers and having two qualified superintendents at Illinois School for the Deaf and Illinois School for the Visually Impaired is a step in the right direction as far as superintendent Marybeth Lauderdale is concerned.

Gov. Pat Quinn returned …

Senate Bill 170 with an amendatory veto, asking that the language on a loan fund be cleaned up and calling for a comprehensive review of deaf and blind education in the state.

“In the near future, I look forward to convening educators, state agencies, families and other stakeholders to determine how we can best serve Illinois children who are blind and/or deaf,” Quinn wrote in the veto.

Lauderdale sees the comprehensive review as an extension of the charge by the Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler in 2009 to evaluate who would be the best governance of both schools, Lauderdale said.

“I think the comprehensive review will determine the future of the two schools and the future of the governance,” Lauderdale said.

But, with threats like Saddler’s — that the agency would close the blind and deaf schools if it had to cut another 6 percent from its budget — at a House Appropriations Human Services Committee hearing in late April, that future is uncertain.

“I’m always worried, especially in this kind of political climate and economic climate,” Lauderdale said, “but residential schools like ISD and ISVI are required by [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act] 2004 as part of the educational continuum, so the decisions should be made based on students needs.”

The team has done its governance homework since 2009 and the group has to see how it fits within the framework of the state of Illinois.

Ultimately, Lauderdale would like to see the schools recognized as schools with some degree of control over their hiring and their budget just like other schools have, she said.

There are critical positions in the schools that need to be filled and haven’t been, even though school has already started, Lauderdale said. The changes effected by this bill would allow for a more timely hiring process.

Lauderdale anticipates the schools will operate with the same structure this school year, she said. A superintendent for Illinois School for the Visually Impaired may be hired next school year. She does not expect that will happen this year, especially in light of problems with the budget.

The budget was not addressed in the bill, although it did say that the superintendent would manage day-to-day operations. The budget could be factored in there, but it is not specific, Lauderdale said.

If the school could manage the budget itself, it could expedite some of the lengthy timelines that come with state procurement and be able to use things like grant money to its maximum potential, Lauderdale said.

The actual language vetoed involved the Therkelsen/Hansen Fund — a loan fund set up by a family of someone who was deaf for loans for students who are deaf to attend college.

The fund has been with the state and an amendment suggested bringing it to Jacksonville to be held locally. The veto maintains the fund be local and changes a few words for clarity.
The bill has to be approved during the veto session in October.

“We’re deciding the futures of two schools that have been here 173 and 163 years,” she said. “We don’t want to do it in a haphazard way. We want to develop good plans to take it into the next century.”

The schools will still not be allowed to use state funds for out-of-state travel, Lauderdale said. Since the new rule was decided last December, the schools fundraise and pay as they go.
The children at both schools have started fundraising, especially students at Illinois School for the Visually Impaired to fund a trip to Indiana for a track meet Sept. 8.
“I don’t know if that will ever be lifted,” Lauderdale said. “Maybe in a different economic climate. But it’s OK, both schools rose to the challenge and are fundraising their little hearts out.”

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