Friday November 22, 1985

Cedar Rapids Gazette
Friday, November 22, 1985

Lawmaker pushes Mitchellville
as drunken driving prison site

DES MOINES (AP) —— The state women’s prison at Mitchellville should be converted to a prison to house drunken drivers, a legislative expert on prison issues said Wednesday.

     In addition, Rep. Gary Sherzan, D-Des Moines, said lawmakers should launch a study of the way inmates are classified and distributed throughout the state’s network of prisons.

     Sherzan’s plan for a separate prison for drunken drivers is the second offered. Gov. Terry Branstad is considering converting the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School at Vinton.

     But Sherzan said converting the women’s prison makes more sense, partly because it’s close to Des Moines, where there are many services for alcohol abusers, and partially because the relatively few inmates there could be absorbed into other sectors of the Iowa prison system.

     At one time, there were only 68 inmates at the prison, though normally there are about 80, he said. "That’s not a lot of people for that budget.”

     He said drunken drivers usually don’t require the tight security of the state’s medium security prisons.

     Converting the women’s prison could be part of a series of changes in the state’s prisons, he said.

     Prison officials have said they’re looking at converting a minimum-security prison at Newton to medium security, and putting drunken drivers at Mitchellville would free a large number of slots at Mount Pleasant, where many are currently housed, he said.

     Sherzan said the reshuffling will be needed because continued budget pressure means there’s likely to be little, if any, extra money for the prison system.

     The study of the way inmates are classified was sparked by the fatal shooting in September of a Newton policeman, allegedly by two inmates who had been at a minimum security facility.

     Under Corrections Department procedures, officials assign a numerical rating to each inmate to determine whether they should be placed at a low-, medium- or high-security prison.



Cedar Valley Times
Friday, November 22, 1985

Regents executive Richey named as author of “politically motivated” proposition

Council Joins fight against Braille school move

Times Editor

VINTON-— City Council raised its head in regular session last night and faced a move by state officials to merge the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School here in Vinton with the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs.

     Council member Morris Eckhart, also serving as chairman for a Vinton Unlimited action committee opposed to Gov. Terry Branstad‘s proposal,  came to council chambers loaded for bear. He distributed a position paper composed by the committee and then spelled out his own concerns about the planned reorganization of schools.

     "I'm very concerned as a Vinton citizen and a member of the council that the proposal is being made and seriously considered,” said Eckhart in opening statements. “Apparently, they are going to try to jam it (the proposal) down our throats.”

     Nearly two weeks ago Branstad announced preliminary plans for the reorganization and downsizing of state government. Included in those plans is the move of the IBSSS to Council Bluffs on the far southwest edge of the state. Branstad is to announce his final plan in early December, and as part of his plan, he is expected to offer Vinton a replacement facility for the Braille school, most likely a long-term care facility or a minimum security prison for drunk drivers.

     Fourth Ward Councilman Alan Woodhouse called the proposal "politically motivated” and “ridiculous?” and both he and Eckhart kept no secrets about who they believe is responsible for the governor’s proposal.

     Wayne Richey, executive director of the State Board of Regents is the official who is bending the governor's ear, Eckhart and Woodhouse believe.

     “Richey seems to come up with a $1 million figure it’s going to save the state per year,” said Woodhouse. “I question how much it’s going to cost to convert the school in Council Bluffs to take care of the blind with all of their handicaps.”

     The action committee kept no secrets, either, bluntly stating in its position paper, “This contemplated move is not an economic move. This is a move that is purely politically motivated and is a grab for power by the executive of one state agency."

     While Richey was not specifically named in the position paper, there is little doubt at whom the paper’s criticism is being leveled.

     In offering a city resolution stating council’s opposition to the proposed merger, Eckhart said it is “incumbent upon us as a city government to resist that (proposal) and do everything we can to oppose that measure.”

     The resolution was approved on a unanimous vote of the five council members in attendance at last night’s meeting, as was a motion to sound the fire whistle in Vinton at noon each and every day the proposal lives.

     Members of the action committee, Eckhart said, “believe we’re possibly in a very long and hard fight here to save the school and if we want to remind the citizens of this town, we’ve got to keep up the fight. We can’t make a good initial effort and then drop it. We’ve got to maintain the fight.”

     Eckhart also said the proposed move would have to be “defeated soundly or it’s going to stay sidetracked forever.”

     "We have to show them (state officials) they aren’t dealing with a bunch of wimps here,” Eckhart said. “By God, we mean business and we’re going to dig in and fight.”

     The at-large councilman believes there are two primary concerns. and he made clear which of the two was most important.

     "The first and most important one is the quality of education of the Braille school students. I think it would suffer considerably if they moved the program to Council Bluffs.”

     Eckhart’s second concern, he said, is “the disastrous effects on our economy." The councilman added, "The economic issue just pales in comparison to the importance of the educational issue.“

     Eckhart and Woodhouse made mention of many of the points stated in the position paper, the entire text of which is printed on todays Editorial-Opinion page of the Times.



Cedar Valley Times
Friday, November 22, 1985

Education of students is paramount concern

What follows is the position paper prepared by Vinton Unlimited's Action Committee to Save Our School.


     The Vinton community supports the Iowa Braille & Sight Saving School and also the Iowa School for the Deaf. We are vitally interested in the education and the well-being of these children and urge the Legislature of this state, the Governor and the Board of Regents not to use deaf and blind handicapped children as a means of resolving their economic problems.

     All organizations which represent educators and support workers for the blind maintain that for more than half a century, educational experience has demonstrated that superior educational results are obtained when blind and deaf children are educated in separate facilities and, we support this position. No blind and deaf schools have been combined since 1912 and the combination has essentially been dismissed as an unsound educational concept.

     Our main concern is the well-being of these handicapped children. The Braille School has been in Vinton for 130 years.

     During this time the residents of Vinton have been intimately associated with the blind and have expended a great deal of effort, money  and love towards their better education and integration into society as a whole.

     One of the main concerns of the blind is mobility / independent travel, and our community has worked very diligently to make that excursion into the surrounding environment a pleasant one for these students.

     The Vinton School system has worked with the IBSSS to mainstream and integrate as many students as possible in the public schools. This expertise will not be found in another community. The caring, professional staff at the Braille school, the houseparents, the aides, the houseparent aides, the teaching aides, the nursing and medical staffs have been working with the blind for 20 to 30 years. Most of these individuals have roots in this community and will be unable to move to another facility. These children will lose all this accumulated expertise, knowledge, instinct and love. And their education will suffer as a result. Providing the required expertise at another facility will more than offset any imagined cost savings

     It has been mandated that handicapped children be educated in the least restrictive environment. This is made very explicitly in Public Law 94-142 Vinton is the center of the blind population in Iowa and also of the population of the Braille school. During the last fiscal year 1984-85, the Braille School has provided services to 283 visually impaired students.

     Removing these children 300 miles from this center and isolating them in the southwestern corner of the state will also isolate them from their families and a familiar environment. This certainly cannot be construed as teaching them in the least restrictive environment.

     This contemplated move is not an economic move. This is a move that is purely politically motivated and is a grab for power by the executive of one state agency. There is little economic basis for this proposal. There has been meager evidence that the combining of campuses for the education of blind and deaf children has saved money. In fact, there have been studies that showed that there was an increased expenditure. Conversion of facilities, training of staff and increased bussing will add to the cost of this proposal.

     Because of multiple handicapped blind students, ramps and elevators would have to be added to all the buildings. Wheelchair and chair lift access would have to be made to all rooms including the swimming pool, therapy rooms, restrooms and the sensory learning environment (SLE) program area.

     The Ophthalmology Department of the University of Iowa is the foremost eye department in the world. These children need a close relationship with this staff and need to be a reasonable distance from that facility. Student teachers from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa need contact with handicapped children, which is afforded by this facility.

     The day of the residential school for the blind and for the deaf certainly is not over. Many authorities feel there has been too much mainstreaming.

     It is too expensive for mainstreamed blind students to be afforded the opportunity to use an opticon or a Kurzwell machine (These are special units which allow the blind student to read print material). These teaching aids (ranging in cost from $20,000 to $40,000 each) are essential for the teaching of blind students and usually the costs for these machines are prohibitive for many of the school districts in the State of Iowa. The per student cost is the same in mainstreaming as in residential for a comparable education according to their individual educational program (IEP).

     The deaf population is realizing a peak in enrollment because of the last German measles epidemic. With wide spread immunizations, this main cause of deafness will not likely be a cause of deafness in the future.

     On the other hand, intensive care nurseries produce handicapped blind children. Younger and younger, smaller and smaller infants are being saved. It is incumbent upon the state to provide education and training for these children. These are multiple handicapped children and the facility in Vinton is uniquely suited and staffed for their education.

     An unhappy alternative for caring for these children would be to turn off the oxygen in intensive care nurseries to cut down on the per pupil cost later on.

     Our Braille school is part of us. We love the children and are concerned about their education. And, we will fight for these children and for the retention of the school here with every means at our disposal.

     There has been absolutely no information presented that the merger and move being advocated will improve the quality of the Braille school students' education.