Kentucky Shifts Funding for Blind Services to Non-State Organizations

by Devin Katayama on May 21, 2012

Slashes to Kentucky’s budget are affecting the state’s School for the Blind, but the state is boosting funds for private agencies that provide related services for younger children.

Louisville’s Visually Impaired Preschools Services, VIPS, is one of three non-profits that don’t fall under any state department to get a funding boost in this year’s budget.

“VIPS for the first time in our 27 year history was put in under the department of education as a line item and we’re going to be getting $100,000 that we’ve never gotten before,” said VIPS executive director Diane Nelson.

The line item funding doubles the amount the state normally allocates to VIPS, which serves nearly 300 children ages five and younger, a population not fully served by the state, Nelson said.

But some have expressed concern that the state is taking money away from state agencies to support private non-profits.

The General Assembly’s decision to boost funding to VIPS, Heuser Hearing Institute in Louisville, and Lexington Speech and Hearing came after it had decided to cut funds to the state’s School for the Blind and School for the Deaf, which fall under the Education Cabinet.

The schools were expecting at least $16 million to split in this year’s budget, but received $15 million, said Carla Ruschival, president of Greater Louisville Council of the Blind. Officials for the School for the Blind have not yet determined how the cuts will affect students, she said.

The Office for the Blind, which falls under the state’s Workforce Investment agency, is also being forced to make cuts. The office is short nearly $330,000 in state funding, which if met, would allow the department to receive a 4-1 federal match to meet its recommended budget.

The office is holding public meetings across the state to address likely changes. The next meeting will be held in Louisville this week.

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