The tour was designed to give both Fielding and Marsh, who is president pro tempore of the state senate, hands-on experience with the programs and initiatives that would suffer in the face of another proration period.
As reported earlier, Alabama education officials are holding their breaths in anticipation of a 3 percent budget cut this year, and a 10 percent budget cut next year, that could have devastating affects on their funding.
“We know if we get another round of proration, it’s going to have a deeply negative affect on AIDB,” Graham said.
“We’re hoping the problems will be short-lived.”
Graham said if there are continued cuts next year, AIDB would have to cut back on its programs and personnel.
After losing about 20-25 percent in funding over the last two years, AIDB could soon be looking at a total of 30 percent in cuts, if there is an additional 10 percent drop in funding next year.
The 10 percent additional drop in funding next year would force AIDB to carry on with a total of 30 percent of their funding gone in just three years.
Through careful and conservative spending, however, Graham said AIDB could handle a possible 3 percent cut this year.
“We have a strong belief that we are not going to borrow money,” Graham said.
Although Graham stressed the need for AIDB to live within its means, support from both Marsh and Fielding was also a strong necessity.
“We appreciate them both being here today because they need to understand our story,” Graham said.
“It’s just an honor for Mr. Marsh to be here, not only is he state senator of District 12, but he’s president pro tempore.
“We’re honored that he would take the time, almost half a day, to spend with us,” Graham said.
The day started with a tour of Alabama School for the Deaf, where Marsh and Fielding got to meet students in grades as early as pre-school and sit-in on their classes.
The group then went to Alabama School for the Blind where ASB Principal Charlotte Lowrey accompanied the group to the school library and into several classrooms where students were getting their daily Braille lessons.
Next, the group visited the Helen Keller School were students were learning about the solar system and cleaning up the environment through SMART Board technology.
The group then visited Alabama Industries for the Blind where Marsh and Fielding were joined by John Mascia, interim vice president of Adult Programs.
Both Marsh and Fielding were able to speak with AIB employees from all over the state and get a feel for the products that they were making.
The last stop was at the E.H. Gentry facility where Marsh and Fielding got a glimpse into the technological innovations that were helping E.H. Gentry students compete in the business and working world.
However, expensive price tags have come with the leaps and bounds in technology over the years.
Graham made a point to stress the difference technological equipment has made in the lives of students, and that AIDB does not receive stimulus funding, like many schools in the state do, for these programs and services.
AIDB also cannot charge tuition; therefore raising tuition is not an option like it is with colleges and universities throughout the state.
“The services I’ve seen today are too important to risk cutting any program, so we’re going to do what we can to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Marsh said.
“I recently talked to the Legislative fiscal office and I do not anticipate proration for AIDB. In fact, it is my hope to work with Sen. Fielding to reinstate the funds that have been lost.”
Marsh is also the senator for the neighboring District 12, a district comprised of Calhoun and St. Clair counties were many AIDB students and workers reside and get bused from.
He said although AIDB does not reside in his district, he plans to work with Fielding to ensure programs and services will not suffer from further cuts.
“We need to do what we can to take care of our seniors, schools, and special needs citizens, including the ones at AIDB,” Fielding said.
Graham said he hopes everyone can see the big picture, and that equal treatment amongst the blind and deaf, as well as the institutions that educate and service them, is an important necessity.
“This trip was truly in good timing, we start budget hearings next week,” Marsh said. “AIDB’s needs and issues will be taken into consideration.”
Contact Aziza Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.