Wednesday, February 23, 2011

An Open Letter to Governor Cuomo Re: Executive Budget Proposal for 4201 Schools





 February 23, 2011

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor of New York State
NYS State Capitol Building
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I am a mother of two Deaf children and they have been attending 4201 School Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) since 1997. Also, I am a dual-certified Teacher of the Deaf at a 4201 school. I have been teaching for 18 years with a demonstrated history of high success rate among Deaf students who pass the Social Studies Regents exam. I am also an American Sign Language (ASL)/English Bilingual Specialist, and I develop ASL curriculum that makes learning English easier for students. Currently, my Deaf children are doing very well academically, as they have met the State standards and both have skipped a grade.

Your executive budget proposal for the 4201 Schools not only underestimates the costs of sending these children back to their local school districts, it does these same children a great disservice. Changing the funding structure to a rate-setting model delegates to local school districts a powerful economic decision-making process. Having districts conduct intakes, evaluations, and IEP’s for Deaf children who are ASL users is an impending disaster of grand proportions. Evaluators who may not be familiar with ASL and Deaf culture do not, therefore, have the expertise to conduct quality assessments to develop appropriate IEP’s for Deaf students. Qualified interpreters are also difficult to find and since certified interpreters are not required in New York State schools, it is an unnecessary attack on families whose Deaf students require an appropriate education. Interpreters are no match to RSD and 4201 Schools Teachers of the Deaf who are college trained and State certified. Studies have shown that providing indirect instruction for Deaf students is not as effective as direct instruction.  For every school district to hire a Teacher of the Deaf and interpreters for each Deaf 4201 School student, will place additional burdens on costs, as districts are already facing budget crises of their own. Once districts get the money from the state based on the rate-setting model, they will prioritize district spending to cover the deficit costs instead of looking out for the best interest for Deaf, blind and severely physically disabled children.

For school districts to have total authority in their hands means denying all of the rights from competent, professional teachers and administration in 4201 Schools, who know and work well with these students every day. It denies us the right to support these students. It denies us the right to make appropriate recommendations regarding the appropriate educational placement for these students. It also denies us as parents the right to choose the best placement for our Deaf children. It further denies us as parents the right to empower our children, because it takes away their opportunities to experience real social life and to master leadership skills.

While public schools may only experience an approximately 7 percent cut, the 4201 Schools may suffer an 85 percent cut, which significantly increases the educational inequities I mentioned and hoists upon children undue harm and discrimination just because they are Deaf, blind and severely physically disabled. It is completely wrong to place this enormous economic burden on New York’s Deaf and other 4201 School children! Please do not rob their education and social development opportunities and also prevent Deaf children’s access to qualified teachers and Deaf role models who play vital roles in their lives.

Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, has suggested that “…instead of further cutting education, you should reconsider to continue the tax on high-earners, which would provide more than $5 billion in critical revenues. Wall Street bankers can afford to pay a little more to help our kids receive a better chance to learn, especially as their mistakes caused the economy to collapse in the first place.”  Please don't shift the blame on our Deaf and other 4201 School children.

Your proposal is not offering a solution but an even greater host of problems. It will not only cost the State and school districts more in the long run, the massive, negative impact on innocent children, will scar them for life and permanently extinguish their rising stars.


Sincerely yours,



Barbara DiGiovanni

Please view @ my YouTube
http://tinyurl.com/Governor4201

(this letter is also sent via snail mail)


Thank you parents for your permission for allowing me to post your children in the pictures in my vlog.