Iowa’s system for educating blind or visually impaired students is undergoing a review. The review was suggested a few years ago by the outgoing superintendent of the Iowa Braille and Sightsaving school. Of the five-hundred blind children in Iowa today, about 35 attend the school in Vinton.
Karen Keninjer, a member of the group studying the system for the State Board of Regents, doesn’t think there’s much support for closing the school. Keninjer says, “There are some kids who have failed in public schools. This public school settings have just been a complete disaster for them.” She says those kids need a place to regroup and get the skills they need to move back into the mainstream environment.
Keninjer says the system now is fragmented with the 15 area education agencies, school districts and the Braille school all having a different perspective. Keninjer says the Braille school is a Regents institution and if it could be restructured to oversee all of the education and be a central organization, that could be a possibility for its future.
Susan Spunjun of the American Foundation for the Blind says Texas adopted a model in the last 10 years that has the centralized location. Spunjun says it’s a success story that many states are looking at. She says any legislator hates to look at the cost of teaching blind children in residential schools (like the Braille school) because the numbers are low compared to the high cost. But she says it also means you have a school that’s open that can also help the entire state serve the entire blind population.
Members of the council studying the system in Iowa are scheduled to meet again next month and they hope to have their final recommendations to the Board of Regents this summer.