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Deaf Community Dropped The Ball

February 5, 2007

Does Oregon need the Oregon School for the Deaf?

Deaf community dropped the ball

February 4, 2007

Deaf schools do not exist to serve the deaf community.

Since when has the state of Oregon been providing a school for the deaf community? The state School for the Deaf is funded by the taxpayers of Oregon to educate hearing-impaired children — not to provide a community for deaf people in this state. If deaf people wish to do so, they should petition legislators to fund one — something which I can assure you will never happen.

Jane Mulholland and the recent disclosure by the Statesman Journal of past cases of inappropriate teacher/student relationships at the school aren’t the only issue here. A closer examination will reveal a bigger problem: poor educational outcomes vs. state cost to run OSD. Facts available in academic literature show that state schools for the deaf cost up to 10 times the expense of educating a deaf child in a mainstream setting, yet state deaf school educational outcomes are lower than mainstream educational output.

Then there is the issue of duplication of services. By law, all public school districts are required to educate all deaf children living in the district. There is no reason that Oregon taxpayers need to pay for another deaf school at the state level.

In Oregon, voters have left many public service operating budgets in dire straits.

The state police budget of 800-plus troopers has been slashed down to 300-odd troopers in recent years. In some counties, voters have left newly built jails empty because of a lack of money to operate them. Clearly the duplication of expensive and perhaps unnecessary educational services for deaf children at the state level is under heavy scrutiny these days and should be of no surprise to anyone.

The deaf community should have been proactive. The deaf community by and large shows no desire to create and fund an organization that will sustain a deaf community on its own and has instead relied on taxpayer money via the Salem deaf school to fill that need.

Yes, there will be vocal outcries locally and perhaps even nationally, but rest assured that very few of them vote and upward of 75 percent of the deaf community are not taxpayers.

Indeed, even one of the most distinguished leaders of the deaf community, Dr. Frank Turk, says the vast majority of state deaf school grads end up on Social Security.

This is the penalty of not being proactive. The focus should be on our deaf children in need of quality education, not the adults who cling to a school of dubious value for selfish needs. Perhaps funding of the Salem school should be taken to the ballot box. A thumbs up or down vote from fellow Oregonians will resolve the issue once and for all.

Tom Bertling of Wilsonville , author of five books about deaf education, is a graduate of a residential school for the deaf. He can be reached at skeptical1@mindspring.com.