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Funding to be restored for key special ed programs          Send a link to a friend

[JUNE 16, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- On Wednesday Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the Illinois State Board of Education announced their plan to restore funding for a number of key special education programs in Illinois. These programs serve critical needs that cannot be met by local school districts. When the governor learned that fiscal 2006 funding for these programs was at risk, he took quick action to restore support for programs serving children with autism, deafness and severe behavioral disorders.

"We can't fail the kids that benefit from these services," Blagojevich said. "These programs offer help that local school districts just can't provide. They have proven track records of helping children with unique learning needs. We won't turn our backs on the needs of special education students and their families. We have to step in and do the right thing."

Earlier this year a lack of available federal funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Part B threatened the fiscal 2006 funding for these programs. A number of factors contributed to this situation, including restrictions in Illinois law that limit the state's ability to access federal funds used to support these programs. When the governor learned of this situation, he worked with the General Assembly to lift the state restrictions on the state board's access to federal IDEA Part B funds. The changes are made by Senate Bill 1815, which has passed the General Assembly and will be signed into law by the governor.

"Along with Governor Blagojevich, we feel strongly that we must continue funding for these effective programs," said Randy Dunn, state schools superintendent. "When we first learned that their funding was at risk for next year, we were anxious to find a way to help them. We heard a clear message from parents, grandparents and educators around the state that their children desperately need these programs. We thank the governor for working with us to restore support for these services."

The State Board of Education announced the proposed fiscal 2006 allocations for its federal IDEA Part B discretionary grants, which included restored funding for the following programs:

  • Illinois Service Resource Center -- Center on Deafness, $460,000
  • Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project, $732,000
  • Assistive Technology Exchange Network -- United Cerebral Palsy, $550,000
  • Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Network, $3,258,000
  • Project CHOICES, $800,000
  • Project HEAR, Illinois School for the Deaf, $50,000

"We are very thankful that funding has been restored to the Illinois Service Resource Center," said Cheri Sinnott, director of the center. "We were very impressed with the response from the governor's office and the legislators we met with across the state. The governor and the legislators recognized that our agency meets an important need and that this would be a loss to the students who are deaf, their parents and teachers, and we appreciate their efforts to turn this around."

The Illinois Service Resource Center is the coordination center for a wide variety of services tailored specifically for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and exhibit behavioral, emotional or mental health challenges. These services are available for Illinois students, parents and professionals. The center provides training to individuals who wish to serve as family liaisons and facilitate parental training groups. The center maintains an interactive online message board for questions and answers regarding specific behavioral concerns and publishes a newsletter.

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The Illinois Autism Training and Technical Assistance Project provides on-site consultation, training and technical assistance to support the needs of children with autism and their families. Activities include intensive support and training for teams comprised of families, school personnel and community providers, as well as Web-based training for professionals working with students with autism.

The Assistive Technology Exchange Network seeks used technology items from private donors for transfer to Illinois schools serving children with disabilities. The network carefully matches the needs with the equipment available and checks and refurbishes the equipment as needed before sending it to the schools. As of March 2005, the network had distributed 28,228 computer systems and several thousand printers, touch screens, software packages and other items to schools throughout the state. The Assistive Technology Exchange Network has served 1,823 schools in 642 Illinois communities.

The Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports Network builds the capacity of schools, families and communities to promote the social and academic success of all students, including those with emotional-behavioral and other disabilities. Services include:

  • Wraparound planning for students with emotional-behavioral disabilities and their families.
  • Community-based supports for families, youth and schools.
  • Prevention-based, schoolwide systems of positive behavior support.
  • Data-based decision-making for instruction in behavior and academics.

Project CHOICES is a least restrictive environment initiative that supports school-age children, and Early CHOICES supports preschool-age children. The purpose of the initiatives is to increase the capacities of school districts and educational personnel to educate and provide support and services to children and youth with disabilities in the preschool, school and community environments.

Project HEAR provides districts with training and technical assistance to help them serve the needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. In the coming year, the program will focus on training for educational interpreters who work with students who are deaf, in order to help the professionals meet the requirements established by new standards.

[News release from the governor's office]

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