Breen cheers acceptance of bill to help deaf students

Posted: November 19, 2015 | Front Page, News Items, Senator Breen
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Sen. Cathy Breen, second from left, is joined by MECDHH Executive Director David Sherry, MECDHH consultant Barbara Keefe, and Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth.

Sen. Cathy Breen, second from left, is joined by MECDHH Executive Director David Sherry, MECDHH consultant Barbara Keefe, and Rep. Teresa Pierce, D-Falmouth.

AUGUSTA — A bill to support the state’s only school for deaf and hard-of-hearing students will receive a full, fair hearing by the Legislature after Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, successfully shepherded the initiative through the Legislative Council.

Sen. Breen’s bill, LR 2269, “An Act to Promote Private Fundraising for the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf,” was initially rejected in a party-line vote during the Legislative Council’s meeting on Oct. 22., with all five Democrats supporting the bill and all five Republicans opposed to it.

The Council reversed its decision and accepted Breen’s appeal on Thursday in a 9-1 vote.

“This bill will level the playing field by allowing the school to engage donors who want to see the school succeed. I knew that with all the information in front of them, the Council would support this commonsense solution for the Baxter School,” Sen. Breen said. “I’m thankful for their consideration, and excited to turn to the real work, which is getting this bill passed in the House and Senate.”

The school, now called the Maine Educational Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing, recently embarked on a fundraising drive only to learn that state law bars them from soliciting and accepting private funds. MECDHH is a one-of-a-kind institution in the state and is involved in serving deaf and hard of hearing students all over Maine.

“MECDHH has numerous unmet needs for children with hearing loss and their families whom we serve statewide,” said David Sherry, the school’s executive director. “The ability to respond to those needs is critical to the agency’s mission. … Sen. Breen’s bill provides the Center with an opportunity to engage in private fundraising to support our comprehensive mission.”

Other public schools in Maine are allowed to conduct this kind of fundraising, and Sen. Breen’s bill would simply create the same opportunity for MECDHH. A nonprofit foundation is already willing and able to act as the Center’s fiscal agent.

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