Local News

Opponents rally to keep school for the blind open

Posted June 17, 2009

— About 100 people opposed to a plan to close the state's only school for the blind rallied outside the state Legislature Wednesday.

Lawmakers are considering closing the Gov. Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh to help erase a projected $4.5 billion shortfall. The House version of the budget stops new enrollment and closes the school in two years.

Students at the school would be shifted to either the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in Wilson or the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton or would be put back into the public school system.

Opponents rally to keep school for the blind open Opponents rally to keep school for the blind open

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the schools, is facing more than $1 billion in budget cuts.

Secretary Lanier Cansler has said the department is trying to find the best ways to deal with the cuts with the least impact on services.

It costs about $30 million to operate the three schools, which serve about 250 students combined, he said. Closing the Morehead School would save the state about $10 million.

A plan was on the table last month to close both schools for the deaf and move students to the school for the blind. Cansler said that would save about $17 million.

Opponents to the plans, however, argue that combining the students would set them up to fail, because each school is specialized to meet students' individual needs.

"Those students that are hearing impaired, or deaf, will learn visually and through sign language. The two systems do not connect," said James Penton, an opponent of the plan who happens to be visually impaired.

"There's nothing in place to truly take care of these children," said Carolyn Register, a teacher at the Morehead School. "I know, I have a daughter who graduated from this school."

Advocates say that by placing the students in mainstream public schools, they won't learn the skills they need to be independent later on in life.

Ricky Scott, a Morehead School alumnus who went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the school system in his hometown could not provide him with the necessary skills to help him succeed.

He credits the Morehead School with giving him a chance.

"It served as a foundation for me becoming employed as a Social Security disability specialist," he said.


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  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 18, 2009

    White Eagle, what does that have to do with this story? If you have specific information, please state it...along with your source.

  • White Eagle Jun 18, 2009

    Penny wise, pound foolish!

    How about having the State save money by only providing services to US residents?

    Yeah, I know, I'm a terrible person for suggesting that we look after our own before we extend a helping hand to people here illegally.

  • inquistitor Jun 17, 2009

    The Public School System doesn't have enough funding to support the special needs children they do have. Adding more will only serve to worsen the problem and leave these kids "Children Left Behind".

  • sparky Jun 17, 2009

    "What measurement criteria would you use." The three schools serve so many more students in North Carolina, not just the students currently enrolled. Not to mention the services the three schools provide to the LEA's. (Local Education Agencies) Simply dividing the cost out per student does not give a clear representation on services provided to the state of North Carolina.

  • 37 Jun 17, 2009

    "You can't look at it as cost per student." Yeah, you really can. What measurement criteria would you use.

  • sparky Jun 17, 2009

    "That's 120K per student per year." You can't look at it as cost per student. These schools do so much more. They serve the entire state and are the experts on serving blind/visually Impaired & deaf/hard of hearing.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Jun 17, 2009

    If it's so easy and cheap to teach blind & deaf students, why isn't there a private option?...that presumably could just swoop in and do this for a pitance and then grandly reward its investors? ...umm...maybe because it's just expensive?

  • tiblet Jun 17, 2009

    I am by no means opposed to state funded schools for the blind and deaf but common sense would tell you that 30 million a year to educate 250 students does not add up. That's 120K per student per year. Why can't they merge the three campuses to one location and still keep the quality of the education/services high? Sometimes what seems an unpopular choice is actually the right thing to do.