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L.D. 765 Letter

March 28, 2012

Dear Senator Rector, Representative Prescott, members of the L.C.R.E.D. Committee
and Sponsors of L.D. 765:

The Iris Network and Catholic Charities Maine, administrator of DBVI’s Education Services for Blind Children program, both have significant concerns regarding certain language now included in L.D. 765 as amended.  That is, the second sentence of the proposed change to DBVI’s enabling act has substituted a legislative mandate in DBVI’s enabling act instead of a simple change in the existing Memorandum of Understanding between Maine’s DOE and DBVI as originally proposed by Representative Davis at the Work Session on February 10th.

Consequently, it is now necessary to delete the following sentence from L.D. 765 as amended:

Educational services that are required by federal law to be provided to blind or visually impaired children from birth to 20 years of age must take precedence over services provided to blind or visually impaired adults.

The shift away from Representative Davis’s approach that focused on requiring children to be served first in the MOU, to the approach now included in L.D. 765 as amended which mandates that children be served first in DBVI’s enabling act, changes the (so called) “children first” principal originally intended to be managed administratively through the MOU, to a statutory requirement.  If enacted, this change in DBVI’s enabling act will require DBVI to reallocate funds from critical adult services in order to provide services to students whenever there are inadequate resources to meet all of the educational and rehabilitation needs of students and adults.  This reallocation will result in the loss of federal matching funds for DBVI’s vocational rehabilitation services for transition-age students and adults as well as for independent living services for older adults; thus, further exacerbating the critical funding shortages that now exist.

For more information, please see the attached letter which provides more background
information.

Also, please help us work with the members of the Appropriations Committee to amend the language of Section 1 of L.D. 765 as amended by striking the sentence quoted above in order to avoid losing federal matching funds.

Finally, please continue to urge the members of the Appropriations Committee to find new money for the funding initiatives included in L.D. 765 in order to bring the state into compliance with federal special education requirements.

Very truly yours, --Jim

cc:
Commissioners of DOL and DOE, Director of DBVI, Director of the Education Services for Blind Children’s Program at Catholic Charities Maine, Chair of the SRC to DBVI, Presidents of ACB of Maine, NFB of Maine, NAPVI/Maine and Pine Tree Guide Dog Users

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