Wednesday November 13, 1985

Cedar Valley Times
Wednesday November 13, 1985

No Braille school move without legislative discussion

Times Editor

VINTON— Local officials are riding an economic roller-coaster in Vinton this week.

     On the high side, Vinton Unlimited is scheduled to announce that a new, though relatively small, industry will soon locate in the city’s industrial park. The unveiling of plans is slated for this Friday.

     On the down side, all kinds of officials and citizens are wondering what specific plans Gov. Terry Branstad has in mind for the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School.

     In an announcement Monday of spending cuts and reorganization of state agencies meant to reduce the burden on the state budget, Branstad has targeted a merger of the IBSSS in Vinton and the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. The governor has plans to create one agency of the two under the Department of Public Instruction. Currently, the IBSSS is governed by the Iowa Board of Regents

     Branstad’s plan is part of an overall, wide-ranging proposal that is intended to cut $130 million from state spending.

     The loss of the school for the blind here in Vinton, as stated by Rep. Kyle Hummel (R-Vinton), “would be devastating” to the local economy, one that, like many other Iowa communities, has been hard hit by tough times in the agricultural sector.

     Hummel, however, is cautioning people not to over-react to the governor’s announcement.

     “I have been in touch with the governor’s office and nothing is definite,” Hummel said Tuesday afternoon. “And I’m going down there tomorrow and talk some more and find out what I can.”

     "We are certainly going to present all reasons why the Braille school would be better left where it is, Hummel said “There are things to consider other than the financial saving of moving the school to Council Bluffs.”

     Hummel also said legislative action would be necessary before any reorganization of the two agencies could come about, and Iowa Legislature is not scheduled to reconvene until after the first of the year.

     This area’s representative to the Iowa House in Des Moines said “considerable amount of discussion” would take place before any final decision is made. Public hearings would be a part of that discussion, Hummel said.

     What Vinton and Benton County stand to lose is a state supported school that has on staff 117 full-time persons, 27 part-time and temporary employees, and a payroll that is budgeted at $1.9 million this fiscal year.

     "If that happens,” Hummel said, “it would be devastating to the community.”

     Hummel said too many questions are unanswered.

     "I want to make certain that all alternatives have been pursued and I will need significant information to show that it (the planned merger) is in the best interest for the blind students,” he said “I want to make sure this is well thought out before anything is done.

     "Their (IBSSS students) interests have got to be paramount.”

     Dr. Richard DeMott, IBSSS superintendent, agrees.

     “My primary concern is that they look at the educational concerns of the students,” DeMott said in an interview yesterday afternoon "I am certainly in sympathy with cost-cutting measures but the way it is done and how that decision affects others must also be considered. We are not only looking at today, but also at what kind of program you provide the students in the future and that is critical.”

     DeMott said the school has received no information about the governor’s plan, and added, “It is difficult to respond to any questions, especially as an employee of the regents and as an employee of the state.”

     The governor’s plan, as recommended by a study committee, is to reduce the size of government and to increase accountability in government. The proposed merger of the IBSSS and the School for the Deaf is only a small piece of the entire re-organization plan.

     In a copyrighted story in this Sunday’s edition of the Des Moines Register, Branstad told a reporter, “We also know we’re going to step on a lot of toes and a lot of sacred cows. There are a lot of popular programs that are under consideration for cuts or elimination.”

     Branstad is ruling out any major tax increases and emphasizes that no final decisions have been made.

     The governor is slated to announce his final decision in early December at which time more specifics about the proposed merger of the two schools will be spelled out.

     “We need to move quickly to implement them (his decisions),” said Branstad in the Register story. "There will be an uproar of protest from people who are upset about their programs or agencies being changed or eliminated or down-sized. whatever it might be.”