National blind group restates opposition to planned changes to Iowa services

Proposal would merge some services for deaf, blind Iowa students at regional sites

The National Federation for the Blind of Iowa on Tuesday reiterated the group's strong disagreement with a plan that would merge some services for Iowa's deaf and blind children at regional sites around the state and consolidate administrative functions of the two systems.

Representatives of the group have discussed their opposition in public forums in recent months, as a study group appointed by the state Board of Regents considered changes to educational services for Iowa's deaf and blind students. The regents last week voted to approve in concept the recommendations from that group, with more details expected to the board in September.

Michael Barber, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, said in Tuesday's statement that members want programs and services for blind students to maintained and supported separately from those services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

The statement of opposition also was distributed to the regents.

"We find it difficult to understand how the Board of Regents can think it is reasonable to combine services for two very different populations -- the blind and the deaf," Barber said.

Federation members believe the recommendations from the study group to the regents were a foregone conclusions -- that merger of the two systems was the goal all along, Barber said. That began, Barber said, when Patrick Clancy last spring was appointed to oversee both systems; Clancy had been overseeing the statewide system of educational services for blind students.

The Federation believes pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade educational services for blind children should be transferred to the oversight of the Iowa Department of Education, from the board of regents.

"We think this is the only way that quality education of blind children in Iowa can occur," he said.

The regents last week approved in concept the recommendations from the study group and asked for plans and details regarding one pilot regional site for services for blind and deaf students. The study group's recommendation is for five pilot sites around the state, including at the School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs and the former Braille and Sight Saving School campus in Vinton.

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