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Public Pressure Works as State Funds Return to Flagler’s Disabled Adults Services

| March 2, 2012

It's been saved.

It was a close call, but as of today (March 2), the Flagler County school district will not lose some $600,000 in state funds to run several programs for the disabled in its Adult Education division. In essence, most–but not all–of the 18 jobs in the division will be saved. The Legislature’s budget still calls for a 15 percent cut in funding, the second successive 15 percent cut for the division. Last year, the cut cost Adult Education three jobs.

The funds were feared all lost two weeks ago when lawmakers in the Florida Senate appeared to have eliminated more than $10 million in funding for about 40 such programs across the state. Evelyn Lynn, the Ormond Beach Republican, claimed that the money had merely been shifted under another designation. That was not the case. The House budget allocated $9.9 million to Adult Education programs, the Senate budget allocated nothing, with no concurrent replacement in other portions of the budget.

The district, led by Colleen Conklin, the school board member and the board’s legislative liaison, George Valentine, program manager of the Flagler Adults with Disabilities Program and Virginia Giaramita, who heads Flagler’s Adult Education division, quickly launched a public-awareness campaign. They held a news conference to highlight the affected programs’ value to the county (see below). And they urged people to write and call legislators to prevent the funding cut-off. It worked.

“I really think that the community sending letters, emails, making phone calls was a tremendous benefit,” Conklin said. “And I really truly believe that they did not intend to zero out this budget item, and once many of them were made aware of it and the drastic changes that were being proposed, became engaged.”

Janet Valentine, the school superintendent, circulated an email Thursday evening to school staffers: “Flagler County did a great job in rallying! All the phone calls and letters worked. Adults with disabilities made it through conference tonight and is in the budget!”

It’s not a done deal: The money was restored to the Senate portion of the budget when the House and Senate went into a joint budgeting conference this week to work out differences in their respective budgets. As of Friday afternoon, the portion of the budget dealing with adult education was worked out in favor of the House version. But conferencing isn’t over. While last-minute changes are always possible, they’re not likely at this point–not with these programs.

Once the two chambers agree to the final version of the budget, each must vote, up or down, on the entire package to approve it. Then it heads to Gov. Rick Scott–who can, and will, veto several items.

The programs affected include Step Up Industries, which 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.

To view a list of programs that would have been eliminated here.

The image below shows the restored fund in the Legislature’s latest conferencing document. Click on the image for larger view.

Click on the image for larger view.

The legislators influencing the legislation:

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

Phone: (904) 823-2550


Sen. Evelyn Lynn, chair of Senate Education Committee

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


Sen. John Thrasher, Flagler County’s Senator

Phone # (904) 727-3600


Sen. Audrey Gibson, Flagler County’s Senator

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


Rep. Fred Costello, local Representative

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


Sen. David Simmons chairs the K-12 Appropriations Committee

(407) 262-7578

Sen. J.D. Alexander chairs the Senate Budget Committee (863) 679-4847 Statewide: 1-800-444-9747

Sen. Steve Wise, chairs the Senate Education Committee (904) 381-6000

Rep. Denise Grimsley, chairs the House Appropriations Committee Phone: (850) 488-3457

Rep. Marti Coley, chairs the House k12 Appropriations Sub-Committee Phone: (850) 718-0047

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8 Responses for “Public Pressure Works as State Funds Return to Flagler’s Disabled Adults Services”

  1. tulip says:

    I sure hope all the money gets restored. I’m sick and tired of those that really need help in life being forced to make all the sacrifices and lose even more quality of life.

  2. Sandra Reynolds via Facebook says:

    YES!! “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
    Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

  3. roco says:

    I also support the two previous posts.. These people (I hate use this in this form) don’t beg for things, they just want some loving and support. They may not be up to many of your standards but their our people and we should give them soms slack. In other words if you think differently, let me know..

  4. slyfox says:

    Makes my heart happy to read this! It’s a fantastic program and NEEDED!

  5. Eileen Curran via Facebook says:

    Thank you Collleen!

  6. palmcoaster says:

    We can achieve good things if we work together and contact our elected ones to presuure them for the right vote. If we do nothing, nothing will change or improve.

  7. Sue Dickinson says:

    Many thanks to you Colleen Conklin. You have agreed to be our legislative liason for many years and this just proves how hard you have worked over all of those years to keep Flagler County in the eyes and ears of not only Tallahassee but Washington as well. You are our ears, eyes and voice – keep up the great work. A special thank you from the special people that we recently fought for. Looking forward to many successful informative sessions in the future. Our legislative delegation just need to be made aware of what really is going on sometimes. Many people are very greatful for your ambition.

  8. Nancy N. says:

    Many thanks to Colleen Conklin for her efforts on this important issue!

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