Deaf Schools in Crisis

Uploaded by NADvlogs on 25.05.2011

Hi, my name is Howard Rosenblum, and this is my name sign.
I am the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).
Thank you for this opportunity to present you with the NAD view during your town hall event.
First, I want to thank those who hosted this town hall on the crisis of our Deaf schools.
This is a very important issue impacting every state in the United States,
so thank you for taking the time and effort to come together to discuss and brainstorm ideas
on how to protect and cherish our children and our future.
Those children are our future. They will become our leaders of NAD years from now.
Without fighting now, our future does not look good for our community, our country, our NAD.
Right now, you see many issues in front of you.
How can we preserve, protect and promote our culture, knowledge and education for our children?
You are looking at many areas currently impacting schools for the Deaf across the United States.
Some are facing permanent closure, such as New York
with the 4201 system being completely transferred to the school district, fully changing its system.
We were fortunate to be able to change and prevent that.
Other states are struggling, such as South Dakota, and Kansas.
Although many other schools are not facing closings, they are seeing their budget dramatically cut,
which could hurt their education, as seen in California, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida and many other states.
So, do we let that happen? We can't. We cannot, and should not let this continue without our involvement.
The Deaf community should have a say at the negotiating table.
We should be involved, provide support, say something, and explain to educators of our states what our community need.
They should not be making decisions about our children without our input.
So, what can we do now?
I suggest we look at this as three prongs.
The 3 prongs would be financial, legal and political.
Before I move forward, we have to look at the NAD position statement on our Deaf schools.
and their importance, and use that information for your advocacy efforts.
That position statement, where can you find it? I will tell you.
This statement statement can be found at this link shown here.
Now, let's focus on the 3 prongs: financial, legal, and political.
Do you think that most states out there that are cutting budgets or closing schools because they dislike deaf children?
No! Most of them are focused on cutting costs, and they worry about and are fixated on money.
Also, this process becomes political because they have to find ways to cut costs.
If legislators decide to cut a program for senior citizens, they would object.
With a large group, they have a loud voice.
Politicians would back off on that strategy, and look to make different cuts that would draw less outcries.
They identify programs for the Deaf as a possibility in reducing costs without complaints from the people.
We can make sure that the politicians understand that we won't be silent about those financial cuts.
We must make noise in each state in this country so that
politicians know they shouldn't touch those programs.
That's the political side. Now for the financial prong.
We also must explain that those cuts to reduce or close programs will not save them money.
We will need to explain in a way that they understand the financial cost of
closing or making cuts to schools or programs for the Deaf will increase the cost for our states.
How's that possible? When a school for the Deaf closes, do you know what happens?
Deaf people are spread out to other schools, and become separate from each other.
Not only is this an awful experience being alone with loss of self-identity in programs meant for hearing students,
but also, when a Deaf student is alone, how can they learn language?
You can't learn a language through interpreters. You must learn to talk in a language first before doing that,
and that language is American Sign Language (ASL).
So, how is this possible when they are placed with interpreters? It is impossible to learn a language through interpreters.
So, when schools for the Deaf are set aside and the state establishes programs for individual students,
they will have to hire interpreters for each individual, and a traveling teacher to meet with each student.
This will greatly increase their cost in comparison with bringing students together with the right teacher.
By addressing the cost issue, we can let our states know that closing our schools will increase their educational expenses.
If they want to save money, they need to keep open the schools for the Deaf.
That's our first argument.
The second argument is the political one mentioned earlier, that we won't stay silent.
We must tell them we will strenuously object and protest this decision.
We will frequently talk with our legislators on this issue.
We cannot wait until a school closes or a cut is made. We must constantly work on this on a year-round basis.
We must be politically active. We must meet our legislators.
Each one of you can meet your legislators.
Don't wait until they begin talking about cuts. I want each one of you to get to know your legislators.
It does not matter if you voted for them or not, or if they are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or any other party.
When you understand someone represents you in your district, you want to tell them:
"I live in your district. You represent me in the Congress of the Government of this state."
"I want you to hear my story. I want schools for the Deaf to stay open".
"I want deaf children to go to schools where they can learn in sign language."
"Budget cuts does not help save you money. Keep the schools open."
You must meet your legislators on a regular basis year-round.
When time comes for them to consider making cuts to the budget, they know you as the person
who will constantly raise concerns, object and oppose them. They will know you will not wait until this becomes a reality.
We have to empower each other to become political people, and meet legislators often.
We won't be quiet.
Now for the third prong: legal. Most of the time you want to sue the state for violating deaf children's right.
The problem is, the parent must object.
For the Deaf community to be in the position to say "you can't do this to a deaf child" is impossible.
Parents have the right to sue deaf schools, not the Deaf community, under the letter of law today.
This means the parents need to be educated, whether they are hearing or Deaf.
We can share information with them on what they can do to educate the legislators to keep the schools open.
Without parents, we have no clout.
And you need to educate the parent on the most important issue:
all deaf children have the right to Free and Appropriate Public Education.
They have a right to a language-rich environment.
They have a right to options. Those options, under the law, are called continuum of placement options.
Continuum means a broad range of options. Some parents may prefer mainstream programs,
which is fine.
But, the range must also extend to other alternatives that include schools and programs for the Deaf.
So, if a state provides only mainstream programs, then they are in violation of the Federal law.
The Federal law requires a range of options to choose from. If a program is missing, that means the choices are missing.
This violates the Federal law. We need to educate your legislators.
Tell them that Deaf schools are a part of the Federal law.
They are a part of the continuum of options. If they close a Deaf school,
then that choice is gone, violating the Federal law.
This is why I am discussing the three pronged approach with you.
The financial prong: Tell them money will not be saved by cutting or closing schools. These schools saves our states money.
The political prong: Make sure our legislators hear us over and over again.
Make sure we put pressure on them so that
they understand that we are not a group easily ignored.
They will have to acknowledge the Deaf community. Does this mean I want you to angrily confront your legislators? No.
I want you to approach them respectfully and let them know: "You represent me. Please do what the Deaf community wants."
Tell them our position, and provide them with information.
NAD and I will work with the Deaf community to develop talking points
so you will be prepared to talk with your legislators.
We will develop this with you.
The final prong, after discussing political and financial, is the legal one.
Tell parents and legislators that when a school is cut or closed, the continuum disappears, in violation of the Federal law.
With all the three prongs, I am confident that we can prevent further cuts and closing of our schools for the Deaf.
It won't be easy. It's not a simple thing: just telling someone those things.
We must monitor and be prepared to fight for years to come.
Every year they could consider making those cuts.
This means we need to be persistent in communicating with our legislators, and don't give up.
Don't wait until they bring it up again. We must talk with them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
so that we can keep our schools for the Deaf, our Deaf Culture, our Deaf Heritage, and our community accessible forever.
Thank you for watching. Thank you giving me the opportunity to talk with you.
Also, I want you to know that NAD supports you in protecting and preserving our Deaf schools.
Thank you.