disabilities

Auditors find troubles at DIDD and see looming caregiver crisis

In an audit of the state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities released today, the state comptroller’s office found shortcomings in several areas and included an “emerging issue” observation that the state faces “a critical shortage of caregivers for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

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Sen. Massey retires from regular job, expands legislative work with new disabilities committee

While some of her colleagues are planning to leave their state Senate seats, Knoxville Republican Sen. Becky Duncan Massey says she plans to devote more time to legislative duties with retirement from her regular job, reports  Georgiana Vines. She retiring as executive director of the Sertoma Center, which serves individuals with disabilities and where she has worked for 24 years.

A major focus for new legislative duties will be co-chairing with Rep. Kevin Brooks, R-Cleveland, a new joint ad hoc committee on disability services appointed by Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Beth Harwell, to examine state services for the disabled, with a goal of making recommendations on how to streamline the services and improve their quality, access and affordability. The recommendations are for the next governor elected in 2018, she said.

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Judge signs off on dismissing Clover Bottom lawsuit

News release from DIDD

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) Commissioner Debra K. Payne today announced the dismissal of the longstanding Clover Bottom lawsuit, effectively ending a quarter century of litigation and court oversight of intellectual disabilities services in the state of Tennessee.  Continue reading

Green Valley Developmental Center finally closes

News release from Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

GREENEVILLE – The final two people living at Greene Valley Developmental Center (GVDC) transitioned to their new homes on Friday, effectively closing the state institution after more than 5 decades of operation.

Tennessee joins 13 other states and the District of Columbia with no large, state-run institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, which is a significant milestone in improving the lives of people with disabilities in Tennessee.

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Just 35 enrolled in TN voucher program for students with disabilities

Tennessee’s first school voucher program, applying only to student with disabilities, has enrolled just 35 students in its first three months of operation out of a estimated 20,000 who are eligible, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee. Parents of the enrolled students get up to $6,000 per year in taxpayer funds to spend on private schools.

Officials say they never expected big enrollment, but are heartened by the program’s potential to grow.

Tennessee lawmakers passed the Individualized Education Act in 2015 to give students with certain disabilities public money for private services such as homeschooling, private school tuition, and tutoring. The catch: Students must leave their public school and waive their rights under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that all students receive a “free and appropriate” public education. That type of program has been lauded by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has said they “empower” parents to make the best decisions for their children.

But in its first year, only 130 families applied for Tennessee’s program. Just a third of those applications actually were approved, and even fewer ultimately decided to participate.

Many forces conspired to keep the number low. For one, the program started in the middle of the school year, a time when parents are unlikely to want to shake up their child’s education.

Plus, only eight private schools got the state’s approval to accept students using vouchers. Many private schools aren’t set up to deal with different disabilities.

Often, private schools charge far more than $6,000, with the tuition at Memphis-area private schools topping out at more than $20,000 a year. Public schools on average spend about $16,000 per special education student.

Six private schools deemed eligible for state vouchers to educate disabled kids

The Tennessee Department of Education has named the six private schools as the first eligible to accept taxpayer money to educate students with disabilities under a new state voucher program, reports Chalkbeat Tennessee.

They are:

Academy for Academic Excellence in Clarksville;

Bachman Academy in McDonald  (a community in Bradley County);

Gateway Academy Learning Labs in Nashville and Brentwood;

Madonna Learning Center in Germantown;

Saint Ann School in Nashville;

Skyuka Hall in Chattanooga

The schools will participate in a program that allows parents of students with disabilities to receive public money for private services such as home-schooling, private school tuition and tutoring. Leaders for the schools met the Nov. 1 application deadline for the program, which was created by a 2014 state law called the Individualized Education Act (IEA).

Under the voucher program, families with a child with eligible disabilities can receive an average of $6,000 annually in a special savings account. State officials reported Wednesday that 130 families applied to participate during the upcoming semester, representing less than 1 percent of the 20,000 students eligible statewide. The final number of participants might be even lower, as application materials are reviewed.

All along, state education officials predicted low family participation. That’s because the $6,000 voucher falls far short of the $16,000 average cost of educating students with disabilities. Families who opt in must waive their federal rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which mandates that all students receive a “free and appropriate” public education.