Big Check and Big Thanks Greet Restoration of Flagler’s Adults With Disabilities Program
FlaglerLive | August 8, 2016
State Sen. Travis Hutson Rep. Paul Renner stopped by the Flagler Schools’ “Step Up” program Friday morning to present a ceremonial check for $535,892.00 to Flagler school officials. It was the money restored by the Legislature in March and approved by Gov. Rick Scott during this past legislative session–after the same Legislature had eliminated the Adults with Disabilities program in Flagler and across the state 2015.
The elimination in Flagler caused an outcry, forced the school district to scale back the program and lay-off employees, and scrambled officials to lobby the legislature for a restoration of the money. It worked. The money will keep in operation for at least one more year, at its former capacity for about 85 participants, the only program of its kind in Flagler County for adults with disabilities. The 2015 slash wasn;t the first: the Legislature attempted a similar cut in 2012, but that time Flagler officials were able to stave it off.
In appreciation for their work, Step Up clients gave the two lawmakers handmade cards. Hutson and Renner stressed the importance of keeping the pressure on fellow lawmakers in Tallahassee to find a permanent funding source for Step Up.
The need for such local services here in Flagler County is growing, with individuals on a waiting list for the program. The budget restores funding for the program to 2014-15.
The Adults with Disabilities program–part of the district’s adult education programs headed by Kevin McCarthy–is expected to move to a larger facility near Flagler Palm Coast High School later this year, which could make way for expanded services. Soon after the funding was restored earlier this year both Superintendent Oliva and School Board Chairman Colleen Conklin credited their local legislators as well as Jeanne Elliott, the director of the Adults with Disabilities program, and Tom Lutz, John Cerra, Chris Doolin and McCarthy for their efforts in securing this needed funding.
“We are grateful to Sen. Hudson and Rep. Renner for their tenacity and due diligence in refunding the program,” Conklin said. “We have already begun working with them to ensure the continuation of this funding for next year. It was a great day for Flagler county.