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Budget Created for DHOH Students in CBI

Sarah D'Souza, Editor-in-Chief

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Administration recently oversaw and approved the creation of a budget for the deaf and hard of hearing (DHOH) students who also take part in Community Based Instruction (CBI).

Learning For Independence (LFI), the Autism program and some students in DHOH have CBI integrated into their county curricula. According to MCPS, CBI is when the students with cognitive disabilities can apply the skills they learn in the classroom to real-life situations. It is intended to prepare the students for college, career and community readiness.

“DHOH does not have a CBI account that is outlined the same way as the other two,” Business Administrator David Stough said. “But, we use our flexibility in house … to try to line it up and make a number (flat rate of the amount of money per student) that was similar so that all of the students who would participate in community based instruction [would have] a similar experience and similar access.”

Although the school was able to create the budget for the DHOH students in CBI, the Autism and LFI departments are still continuing to face financial challenges.

“Last year, we were told that we were no longer able to ask, or receive even, parent donations for CBI…I understand the mindset that no parent should ever have to pay for CBI, but again when you don’t have money, you limit to the activities that the students can be exposed to,” special education resource teacher Kimberly Dutton said.  

According to the Guide to Community-Based Instruction released last spring, “Parents should not be asked to provide funds to cover the cost of CBI, because this is an essential component of each student’s free and appropriate public education. Providing students with regular and systematic instruction in financial literacy, including the use of money (currency and debit cards) to make purchases, supports long-term outcomes of career, college, and community readiness.”

However Dutton said this was not always the case.

“Now, when I came to Rockville High School, the culture of CBI was that, and this was from the parent push, that they wanted their kids to know how to use money in the community,” she said. “So that’s when the parents were like we’ll pay the money, we want them out there, we want them making purchases at least twice a week.”

There are many different activities that can be considered under CBI. While some activities are free for students, including visits to the library, post office and VisArts; others require money to access certain parts of the Rockville community. These include going to Bounce U, a restaurant, the movie theaters etc. According to Dutton, students need repetition of the same CBI instruction close to four different times, in order to learn from the experience.

“It’s so costly to go [to something like bowling] four weeks in a row, because it takes us time to learn things. Our kids have to learn how to go there, how to access it, how to ask for the shoes, how to set up the games, how to bowl,” she said.“You don’t learn that in one shot. You may learn some things about that in four shots, but four times, that is costly.”

Even with the annual budget cuts and limited funding for CBI, the LFI and Autism programs, students have always been able to go on CBI trips. Since CBI is a part of the curricula, students go up to two times a week.

“All departments in MCPS have been affected by budgetary concerns,” Luther Jett, itinerant resource teacher of MCPS, said. “I should note, though, that all schools where there are students receiving CBI are allocated funds specifically for this purpose, and that this was not always the case prior to the publication of the current Guidelines.”

While, as mentioned above, DHOH students did not receive allocated funds for CBI, the funds for the LFI and Autism programs amount to a flat rate of around $12 per student per year for the means of CBI, not including transportation costs to go into the community.  “Now in the past also staff has paid for kids who don’t have the money, because we don’t feel like we can deny a kid- we don’t want to deny a kid a fun service,” Dutton said. “But, if we’re doing it by strict community based instruction, we just wouldn’t go to Bounce U. We would always find free places and places kids can go where they don’t need money.”

Alumna Erica Morris (‘16) said that if there were more money raised for CBI, that students would have more opportunities within the community. She also took part in CBI both while parents were still told they could donate and after when they were directed not to.

“I gained a lot by really enjoying myself in the community,” she said.

While RHS has limited funding for CBI, many other schools are without any allocated funding. This can make it hard for CBI to achieve its purpose–providing students with real life exposure and financial literacy to prepare them for adulthood–given that many things in the community do cost money to access.

“I’ve worked in another county in Maryland and MCPS is very generous with our students compared to other counties- not just within Maryland, but within the country,” Dutton said. “But again- and this was the thinking at the top of MCPS is that parents should never have to pay for anything their child needs to access their education. And I agree with that. But the only problem is that our parents and our kids were used to having lots of exposure to lots of different environments, and just being able to go anywhere they chose.”

The National Honors Society (NHS) has helped to fundraise.

“Last year when we were so sad and everyone was hurt because we weren’t doing much, some of the NHS kids […] heard our students grumbling about it, and we were like, ‘We have to do it differently because we don’t have the money.’ So they decided to help with a fundraiser for money,” Dutton said. “I knew [NHS] did [a fundraiser] last year, but I was overjoyed that they remembered us this year. I was like, ‘Oh we are special, we do count.’”

According to Best Buddies president and NHS secretary Yuni Higgs, NHS has one main objective each year. This year their goal is to increase funding in for the LFI and Autism programs.

“NHS every year has a specific goal, and this year we decided to focus on the LFI program because last year we tried to and we just didn’t make enough money- they need the money,” Higgs said.

The NHS held a bake sale Oct. 26 outside of the girls varsity volleyball senior night game which raised $187. The next fundraiser at California Tortilla brought in $70. Before winter break, the pizza party for NHS also contributed $117 toward the LFI and Autism programs, all of which came from student donations.

According to Higgs, the fundraised money goes directly to the LFI program.

“Before I was an English teacher, I was a special education teacher, so I have close ties to that program and I knew that the community-based programs are often short on funds,” NHS sponsor Christine Sutter said. “And I knew that there had been a change.”

Although many sources throughout the school have become aware or have been told of a change, which prohibits the LFI and Autism programs from receiving monetary donations from parents, according to Jett, no such change has been put in place by MCPS. However, the guidance that parents should not be asked for money, verbally predates the handbook which implicitly states it.

“Our department has not taken a position on the question of voluntary parent donations,” Jett said over email. “The statement cited above (In the Guide to Community Based Instruction) does, however, imply that school staff should not be soliciting such donations.”

Meanwhile, there is still internal confusion regarding the issues surrounding the guidance.  

“I don’t know if the directive was new, but obviously something happened in the community so the directive was re-emphasized to staff because we had never heard this before, but we were told in a meeting that this is how it’s always been- So I don’t know what caused the shift,” Dutton said.

According to Montgomery Village MS LFI teacher Julie Lyst, her school is still able to pay for CBI through teachers’ and administration’s donations. Along with this supplement to the budget, the school pays for its students to go on a trip, usually to a restaurant, once or twice per quarter.   

“In special Ed you are given a directive and you figure out ways to work with it, and that’s what we do,” Dutton said.

 

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Budget Created for DHOH Students in CBI