Schaer decries Christie cut to program for visually impaired

TRENTON – Assembly Budget Committee Co-Chairman Gary Schaer (D-36) of Passaic on Wednesday criticized Gov. Chris Christie’s veto of a line item that would have restored funding to keep several teachers employed who work with visually impaired students. 

Christie’s original budget, which was unveiled in February, proposed a $1.53 million cut to the Children Services Department of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired program. The funding cuts would cause an estimated 20 teachers to be out of work. The Democrats had restored the funds in their $30.6 billion budget, but it was vetoed.

Schaer said the program cuts leave Christie without a back-up plan on addressing this sensitive subject.

“During our budget hearings, we heard testimony from children and their parents about the many ways in which the teachers and the technology provided through this program have helped them overcome obstacles and thrive,” Schaer said in a statement. “What became clear is that the governor’s proposed cut means a loss of roughly 20 teachers, or one-third of the educators in the program.  Yet despite this loss, the administration remains unwilling to detail how it would impact the children served by this program.”

In an Assembly Budget Committee hearing in April, Commissioner Jennifer Velez, of the Department of Human Services, which runs the program, defended the proposed teacher reduction because the number of student caseloads had been reduced. 

The move, she said at the time, is intended to make the program more efficient, increase the number of hours of instruction to the students, and working on a full-year model, instead of a typical 10-month school year.

There are currently 2,059 students. The number of teachers would be expected to go down from 65 to 45, if the veto is not overridden.

Schaer decries Christie cut to program for visually impaired