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Flagler School District Mobilizing Against 18 Job Cuts and Lost Services to Disabled Adults

| February 19, 2012

Flagler County schools' Adult Activity Center is one of several programs offered through the district's Adult and Community Education division that may be eliminated, if the budget that passed the Florida Senate isn't amended.

Step Up Industries is one of the many programs run by Flagler County’s Adult and Community Education department, itself a branch of the Flagler County school district. Step Up Industries helps disabled adults learn enough life and job skills to earn a living–and not be dependent on the state or the community. The Adult Activities Center is another program that helps nurture independence for the disabled by giving them a place to go every day and working with an instructor. Community Inclusion, yet another program, prepares disabled students about to become adults to make the transition to the workplace. They’re paired up with job coaches, counselors, vocational teachers and business partners to ease the way, again stressing independence and self-sufficiency.

Flagler County is in danger of losing all those programs, affecting 248 adult and non-adult students in the county, including 36 students in the transition program for 18 to 22 year olds.

The budget that passed the Florida Senate eliminates much of the funding for Adults with Disabilities programs, according to Virginia Giaramita, who heads Flagler’s Adult Education division. ” The House’s proposal cuts 15 percent and the Senate is proposing elimination of all funding,” she wrote district school board members and adult education’s faculty and staff on Friday. ” These programs make such an important impact on the lives of our students and are a valuable resource for our community.”

Pin Flagler, the cut would amount to $600,000.

George Valentine, program manager of the Flagler Adults with Disabilities Program, followed up with a letter to local leaders, students and parents involved in adult education, bringing them up to date on the proposed budgets and encouraging them to contact legislators. “We took a 15 percent reduction last year and that resulted in the loss of three staff members,” Valentine said. “Our budget for this year is half of what it was for the 2006-2007 school year. While I understand that Florida’s economic problems are severe it would seem that we are trying to balance the budget by placing an undeserved burden on our most vulnerable citizens.”

The Senate and House budgets must be reconciled in what’s called a “conference” between the two sides. Things can change at that time: versions of the Senate bill can prevail, versions of the House could be chosen instead, or the two sides could compromise on new versions. What’s likely to happen with the disabilities programs, however, is that they will be cut; the extent to which they will be cut is in question, if House leaders can prevail and convince the Senate not to essentially eliminate all funding.

Colleen Conklin (© FlaglerLive)

Colleen Conklin (© FlaglerLive)

Colleen Conklin, the school board member and legislative liaison for the board, was busy exchanging emails and phone calls with local and state officials late Friday as she was coordinating a response from her Flagler Beach office. She was as concerned about the potential loss of 18 full-time jobs and five part-time jobs as she was about the loss of services.

“In the county that has the highest unemployment rate, that number of jobs would be devastating to us,” Conklin said. “It’s not too late to make an impact. Sen. John Thrasher as our representative needs to understand the implications so really, we’re in the process of rallying the troops and getting the word out.” She added: “This is not a little thing. This would really impact the special needs community in the county.”

By Sunday, Conklin had drafted a written letter herself–essentially merging the various missives and alerts that had been crisscrossing local officials’ em,ail boxes since Friday–and was disseminating it. “We must be sure that our delegation understands the impact this decision has on our local community and economy,” Conklin wrote. “Please ask that they restore the funding for our Adults with Disabilities programs. This process will be coming to a close this week, don’t miss the opportunity to take a stand for those who may not be able to stand on their own.”

A list of legislators, their contact numbers and emails was included. It appears below.

Rep. Bill Proctor, Flagler County Representative and chair of the House Education Committee

Phone: (904) 823-2550

E-mail bill.proctor@myfloridahouse.gov

Sen. Evelyn Lynn,  chair of Senate Education Committee

Phone # 1-886-831-2665 or (386) 238-3180

E-mail lynn.evelyn.web@flsenate.gov

Sen. John Thrasher, Flagler County’s Senator

Phone # (904) 727-3600

E-mail thrasher.john.web@flsenate.gov

Sen. Audrey Gibson, Flagler County’s Senator

Phone # (904) 359-2553 or (386) 506- 3492

E-mail gibson.audrey.web@flsenate.gov

Rep. Fred Costello, local Representative

Phone # (850) 488-9873 or (386) 736-5100

E-mail fred.costello@myfloridahouse.gov

Sen. David Simmons chairs the K-12 Appropriations Committee

(407) 262-7578

simmons.david.web@flsenate.gov

Sen. J.D. Alexander chairs  the Senate Budget Committee

alexander.jd.web@flsenate.gov (863) 679-4847 Statewide: 1-800-444-9747

Sen. Steve Wise, chairs the Senate Education Committee

wise.stephen.web@flsenate.gov (904) 381-6000

Rep. Denise Grimsley, chairs the House Appropriations Committee

Denise.grimsley@myfloridahouse.gov Phone: (850) 488-3457

Rep. Marti Coley, chairs the House k12 Appropriations Sub-Committee

marti.coley@myfloridahouse.gov Phone: (850) 718-0047

to view a list of programs that would be eliminated here.

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12 Responses for “Flagler School District Mobilizing Against 18 Job Cuts and Lost Services to Disabled Adults”

  1. Jen says:

    Flagler County is in danger of losing all those programs, affecting 248 adult and non-adult students in the county, including 36 students in the transition program for 18 to 22 year olds.

    Is the entire Adult and Community Ed Center/Program in danger, or just this part of it? Also, how much money does this portion cost to run and how much is being cut? I’m thinking the cuts could made elsewhere.

  2. Kendall says:

    Didn’t Governor Scott just last week announce more corporate breaks to “grow jobs?” I guess those big companies will benefit on the backs of Florida’s most vulnerable residents.

    I’m sickened.

  3. Colleen Conklin says:

    Jen, the budget item is $600,000.00 The budget is divided into categories. The categories are very specific on what the money can and can not be spent on. The entire line item for adults with disabilities has been zeroed out in the Senate budget. The House budget has another 15% cut but none the less the funding for it is included in their budget. If the funding is not restored during the budget conference the program’s funding will be eliminated. It is critical that community members contact legislators and make sure they are aware of the consequences of their actions and ask that they restore funding for our most vulnerable citizens!

  4. Doug Chozianin says:

    How about converting ALL state and municipal pensions to 401Ks (like private industry) and use part of the savings to fund disabled services.

    The rest of the savings can go to reducing our taxes.

  5. Colleen Conklin says:

    Really Doug – if you’ve got something realistic to offer please do. I know, I know those state pensions are going to save everything. Please do your homework about Florida’s pension plans before . . . .

    Oh never mind – this is a pointless debate with you!

    Hopefully,there will be others who will take the initiative to contact legislators.

  6. Colleen Conklin says:

    Doug – are you the same Doug Chozianin who runs http://www.haitianchildren.org/ fund? If so, how in the world can you square your philosophy of limited government when you are dedicating your life to assisting those in a country who’s government has tossed them aside like dogs. If they had a government who provided safety, security and simple programs to protect their citizens you wouldn’t need to look for donations to assist those in such need. Your name is fairly unique, if it is not you then of course I apologize. However, if it is please help us understand how you square this in your mind.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    @Doug..are you kidding me 401k’s so the wall street boys profit with high commissions and fees while draining the funds into the ground like has been done since 2001 and specially when the market took a s… in 06 to 08?
    http://blogs.reuters.com/reuters-money/2011/08/26/why-401k-plans-will-fall-short-for-most-americans/
    http://blogs.reuters.com/reuters-money/2011/08/26/why-401k-plans-will-fall-short-for-most-americans/

  8. concerned says:

    How about a volunteer school board,Will save thousands. Or a volunteer pay cut in the over payed Gov. In Flagler. It is not NY Poeple

  9. palmcoaster says:

    You got the right Doug, Colleen. He sails a 32 foot vessel and has his roots in Hollywood Fl.
    A businessman with at least 3 business ventures in the Sunshine State. He sure has no worries about any pension benefit to be reduced, as our Florida public employees have to endure now, or the potential proposed cuts that Adult Education students with Disabilities will have to suffer as well. As for Doug’s and company words here, the reasons are obvious.
    @Concerned I agree on a volunteer Flagler County government pay cut, on salaries over 70,000/year.

  10. Kate says:

    Thank you Colleen and Pierre for bringing this to the attention of the public. The implications of this vote and yet another cut to the programs of the disabled are far reaching and not to just those who will lose their jobs but for those who would love to work and without those programs will not be able to do so. The families of those adults with disabilities will be greatly affected. When those that need to care for the adult might need to leave their place of employment to care for them and they search for programs in order to fill their most basic needs. I think the State of Florida should make the investment in the community so that these individuals can become as independent as they can be and give back to their society.

  11. HomeSchool4me says:

    Ms Conklin, great discovery! If the Haitian Children’s Fund is a non-profit they’ll have tax returns and 990′s available. I wonder how much money he’s making off these donations.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    @HomeSchool4me: Same thought came to my mid! All these fundraisings for Haiti and they don’t get the help or $$ donated.
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/sharing/2010-02-04-haiti-scam_N.htm
    http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2003/05/opp.shtm

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