Three 4201 schools on Long Island and eleven across New York State may lose direct state funding due to proposed budget cuts, which school representatives and local parents say would be disastrous to special needs students. The three Long Island 4201 schools are Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf, Cleary School for the Deaf, and Henry Viscardi School at Abilities.
"When the governor’s budget came out, it eliminated the line which historically has provided funding to 4201 schools. The governor decided that those costs should now be shifted to local school districts. It’s a tremendous cost shift and frankly an abandonment of these schools," said Dr. Mark Prowatzke, Executive Director of Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf.
School officials fear that local districts will simply choose to educate special needs students in the district instead of sending them to the 4201 schools. Parent’s say this would be devastating as many of them chose these 4201 schools because local districts they say could not provide the education their children needed.
Jessica Islam from Glen Cove said Mill Neck School for the Deaf helps her son Joseph tremendously. "After reviewing what Glen Cove had to offer, Joseph has problems with processing auditory information. I found that he was still very lost. So we looked at Mill Neck’s program and were very happy with what we saw," Islam said. "I would hate to see something like this taken away from a child. I think that every child should have the ability to have the proper encouragement and foundation and support systems behind them in order to excel and be who they can be."
Nicki Kessler from Glen Cove said she saw an immediate effect on her son Sean as well: "After two weeks of starting the program, it was amazing. He was using his voice and using his signs."
Sean Kessler, a 22-year-old Glen Cove resident, now works for North East Technologies. Kessler has been deaf since childhood, but now says he is able to hold a job because of the education he received through Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf.
Through sign language aided by interpreter Glenn Sheprow, Sean Kessler – who started at the school at seven years old and graduated in 2010 – credited the education he received at Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf with letting him explore his potential by joining the work force. He said he's concerned that local school districts don‘t have the resources to help these children reach their full educational potential.
"I’m not really comfortable with the government reducing the funding to the school," said Kessler.
"I’d say to the governor, please don’t close Mill Neck School, it needs to stay open," said Kessler. "I’d try to make him understand that Mill Neck is really important to the people who live in this community, because I’m from Glen Cove and I grew up in this area."
said he understands the concerns and he is supporting restoring the funds directly to the schools.
"These 4201 schools provide education and comfort for families of children who have profound challenges. What does it say about us as a people what does it say about us as a community of New Yorkers when we can not protect the most vulnerable of our children?"
The schools are asking for community support and asking residents to write letters or call their local state representatives and sign a petition. For more information on how you can help, you can visit the Mill Neck website or to sign the petition online.