Kansas School for the Deaf on the budget chopping block

As Kansas leaders continue to look for ways to address the state's growing financial crisis, the School for the Deaf in Olathe could be next on the chopping block.

Despite a pledge from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to hold harmless public education as the state grapples with a $190 million deficit in 2009 and a budget shortfall that could reach past $1 billion in 2010, she recently created a panel to study whether the closure or realignment of the School for the Deaf and School for the Blind would save the state money.

The schools have a dual role as educational facilities for school-aged deaf and blind children in Kansas and agencies.

The Facilities Closure and Realignment Commission created by the governor will also study Beloit Juvenile Correctional Facility, state developmental disability hospitals and Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan., to see whether closure or realignment of those facilities could render additional savings.

For Larry Finn, a sixth-grade teacher who has taught at KSD since 1973, closure of the school would be detrimental to deaf children in Kansas.

The school provides services that would be difficult - if not impossible - to duplicate in public school districts, Finn said.

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