Last month, Gov. Doug Ducey signed House Bill 2022, funding just over $2 million to the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind.
HB 2022 was supported by Rep. Paul Boyer of the Phoenix area, a member of the House since 2013 and Chair of Arizona House Education Committee since 2015.
The bill was passed almost unanimously.
“We needed a champion, and Paul Boyer was our champion,” said ASDB Public Relation Officer Ryan Ducharme.
The funding that ASDB will receive will go towards hiring teachers that will work in student homes to provide families help with early social interactions and skills development to help ensure a successful transition to preschool.
The Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind maintains two facilities in the state: one in Phoenix and another in Tucson.
Besides the schools, ASDB provides different programs for children up to three years old where teachers visit the homes and help the families and the kids with communication skills.
“This bill provides the resources for more children to get a jump start on literacy and learning before they get to the classroom, we think is vital that these students get education opportunities that every child on the state gets,” said Governor’s office spokesperson Daniel Scarpinato. "The best way to do that is for them to have all the help that they need and provide that early intervention for the family who needs it.”
The funds will be distributed by ASDB throughout the state based on an assessment of need.
Roughly $1.6 million will be allocated to hire additional teachers and equipment, and the $470,000 remaining will be used to acquire transport for the teachers.
“The goal is to have one visit a week, or four times a month,” said Ducharme.
According to Scarpinato, this has been a priority for Gov. Ducey. He wanted to assure the funds were in the budget for the next school year and tried to incorporate in last year's budget but did not succeed.
The annual amount will be built into the budget, and the Governor’s office will continue to work with ASDB to keep reassessing the resources.
“The funding will be ongoing to make sure that they can keep providing,” Scarpinato said. “The governor’s office of education has a positive relationship with ASDB and have a open communication.”
Another priority for the office of Gov. Ducey is the teacher pay rise provided by the “20 by 20" plan. ASDB was also included, and will receive that funding along with the funding from HB 2022.
The house bill is an independent bill from the legislation session that the state passed at the beginning of May as a result of the RedForEd movement.
“This has been an idea since the governor introduced it last year, but the legislators did not agree with it,” Scarpinota said. “But the governor started to start talking about it publicly last year and in the budget proposal in January but with the energy and enthusiasm that came around the education issue as a relation to teacher pay it added additional momentum to these educational priorities that the governor had included it executive budget proposal.”
The ASDB facilities in Tucson was the first one to open and still has a few of the original buildings. Throughout the state of Arizona around 2,000 children are benefited by this funding with 145 being in Tucson.
“I am proud to sign a bill that will help students across the state receive the tools they need to succeed in the classroom,” Ducey said via a press release.
Maria Angulo is a Northern Arizona University journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.