Dear Senator/ Representative ____________________:
I am writing on behalf of the children with visual impairments in the State of Illinois. As you know, the costs and challenges of educating a child with visual impairments are significant. These challenges become even more significant when one considers that a growing number of children with visual impairments have multiple disabilities. To assist these children in becoming productive members of our society, additional resources and training are needed.
The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI) has been and will continue to be a resource for all children with visual impairments in the state; however, the school is in need of additional funding to address critical textbook, technology, and certification training for staff. In addition, the current budget is limited for needed summer and outreach programs that ISVI provides to students who do not attend ISVI.
The immediate need to update textbooks and upgrade technology is approximately $200,000. The certification training for staff which will enhance teaching students with visual impairments and additional disabilities is approximately $75,000.
Looking to the future, ISVI has identified the need of an expanded curriculum which will warrant additional funding. This need will involve developing a summer program and enhancing the current independent living program. The summer program will strengthen the curriculum for existing students of ISVI. For students not currently attending ISVI, a revolving curriculum will be offered to enhance the instruction they receive in their local school district during the year. The staff and the Advisory Council of ISVI are exploring the specific funding requirements to make these programs a reality.
In perspective, I do not consider the costs to educate and enhance the lives of these very special and gifted children to be significant. Especially if one considers the potential cost to society needed to support them once they leave school. If the current educational scenario continues and the improvements as stated above are not realized, then each child can anticipate greater limitations for employment opportunities and on his or her independence.
In closing, I understand that state resources are very tight at this time; however, please seriously consider this request. If you have not already done so, I would encourage you to visit the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired in Jacksonville or observe a child with visual impairments receiving instruction in a public school in your district. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed. They are truly wonderful children who are eager to learn and develop to the fullest extent of their abilities.