Funding hardship forces Texas School for the Deaf to suspend summer program

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- Each summer the Texas School for the Deaf welcomes children from around the state for its summer program, but this year they're being forced to cut it because they don't have enough state funding.

Dr. Bobbie Beth Scoggins says it was a difficult decision for school leaders. "Our summer program activities, the camp-like activities, [are] state-funded and it's not required by federal mandate, however we view it as a very necessary activity for the whole state of Texas. Unfortunately, that was the first place in which we are able to reduce that shortfall."

Scoggins is director of the Educational Resource Center for the school. She says their budget hasn't changed much since 1997, but the number of children they serve and other costs have gone up. The decision was based on financial constraints that the school is facing as it approaches the end of its two-year biennial budget cycle.

She says in the roughly 25 years they've offered summer programs, they have never had to suspend them.

"It's really difficult to be a person with hearing loss in a regular classroom with a little support. So coming here,  they will socialize with peers, they're able to gain some of those tools to become more independent when they return to their home districts," said Scoggins.

The school is confident they'll be able to restore the program next summer, by working out a plan with Texas lawmakers.

Parents like Julia Street hope that's the case.

"I was disappointed because my son is special needs, we needed to have some sort of accommodation. So it is difficult but we've accepted," said Street. "My daughter also was disappointed, she wanted the opportunity to socialize, get the language structure and the field trips."

Street's two children have gone to the school since they were born. She says it feels like home to them.

"There are many benefits to both of my kids being a part of this summer program, meeting new friends too," said Street.

A father in north Texas is trying to raise the money himself through an online fundraiser. He says the stimulating summer program has helped his daughter gain confidence and skills. He says if he's not able to raise the necessary $500,000, he'll donate the money to help provide children hearing aids.

Dr. Scoggins says despite the hardship, they've received an outpouring of support from the community.

The announcement does not include Extended School Year services that are part of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), or Accelerated Instruction and STAAR retesting, as these services are recommended for individual TSD students in the ARD/IEP meetings.

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