Yesterday was a strange day news-wise. The news started off bad when I checked the mail during lunch. We received some mail from the CARD center at FSU, so I eagerly opened it, thinking it was a schedule of upcoming events, etc. Boy, was I wrong. The letter, from the Executive Director, outlined that their budget for the upcoming year had been slashed by 20.2%. Wow.
What this means is that the CARD centers, centers that help families like us start the process of receiving an evaluation, and offer continuing services through a variety of educational programs, will have to significantly reduce the services that are offered. This is a tremendous blow to individuals with autism and their families. A significant reason for the reduced funding is Florida’s governor’s disdain for people with disabilities. He has made plenty of efforts to reduce or elminate funding to pretty much anything that has to do with disabilites (and also education). The 20.2% budget decrease is just another example of how little he cares for those with disabilites, and I suspect he even knows that autism is a disability. Because of the tremendous people at CARD, I suspect the budget reduction will have very little impact on those that come there for services. Sure, some of the educational stuff will be self-paced online sessions, but losing the interaction with the staff by those receiving services will hurt. We have had nothing but positive experiences with CARD, from Kaitlyn’s initial evaluation to them helping translate some of the clinical diagnosis into English for us. They will still rely heavily on students that are studying psychology to come there and help out, and that aspect won’t be touched by any budget reductions.
There was, however, a bit of good news yesterday as well. Given the governor’s disdain for both people with disabilities and education, I held out little hope that he would sign HB 1329 into law, even though it cleared both chambers during the legislative session this year. HB 1329 expands eligibilty for a McKay Scholarship for students in Florida from requiring an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) only to allowing students on a 504 plan to be eligible as well. What this means is that a a student will no longer have to be receiving services from a school district to be eligible for a McKay Scholarship to attend a school that can serve them better. Previously, a student was only eligible if they had an IEP in place. There are a significant number of students on a 504 plan in Florida that had been left out. I am excited by this because it will open up more opportunities for more students in our state.