DSPS slashes services

Having lost 45.5 percent of its annual budget, City’s Disability Support Programs and Services (DSPS) canceled all specialized classes, reduced test proctoring and high tech center hours, and asked three counselors to seek early retirement, according to Program Activity Manager Debra Wright-Howard.

Compared to 2008-2009 school year, the program has gone from offering 10 specialized classes to none this year. Test proctoring and access to the high tech center is now only available three days a week, compared to five days a week this past spring.

Wright-Howard estimated DSPS has lost about $200,000 of its budget in the last three years. She added that even though the program’s enrollment increased seven percent this school year, DSPS is still being funded based on 2008-2009 school year numbers.

With having to service 1,100 to 1,200 students per year and having only 2 counselors by next fall, Wright-Howard said she fears students will not have sufficient access to adaptive equipment and there will be longer waits for services students need in a timely manner.

“Our problem is that we are federally mandated and it will affect our students to not have their services,” Wright-Howard said. “It’s a service we believe in providing and the district needs to support us; these services must be offered.”

Wright-Howard said she hopes the district or the school can help her with supporting her creative ideas to make the budget work and by having access to other staff.

Under section 504 of the US Government’s Rehabilitation Act, any educational institution cannot deny benefits to any qualified individual with a disability.

San Diego Community College District Chancellor, Constance Carroll said she and school president Terrance Burgess are working on shifting money into DSPS from other programs to make sure DSPS is protected.

“It’s like a triage,” Carroll said. “First, we need to find money to protect the staff in DSPS and second, we need to find the money to back fill the budget cuts the state has made.”

Carroll added that other DSPS programs throughout the state of California have cut staff and counselors before finding other funding to keep the programs afloat.

“It’s important for students to know that budget cuts come from the state and not the district,” she added. “The district will not remotely think of cutting budgets to DSPS; this is a top priority for us.”

Lisa Mallord, a DSPS student, said not having the adaptive classes has made it hard to succeed in regular college level classes.

“We really need the classes to get to the level that we need to be at,” Mallord said.

Some DSPS classes that were cut as last summer are: career planning for the disabled, math strategies for the Learning Disabled, effective sentence writing and grammar among others.

Mallord added that some of her peers have dropped out of school this school year because “they don’t have the classes available anymore.”

“How will we reach the college requirement level without the classes?” Mallord asked. “We want to be successful (in school) just like everybody else.”

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DSPS slashes services