School for disabled may close without state money

July 27, 2010 (GLEN ELLYN) The Philip J. Rock School and Center, named after the former Illinois state senate president, is the only year-round residential program in Illinois for the deaf and blind.

The 32-year-old facility is 100-percent funded by the state. Because the state is several months behind in paying its bills, the school may have to close next week.

Katie Royal, 13, has cerebral palsy and is partially blind and deaf. Jacob Krueger, 9, has multiple disabilities including Downs syndrome, deafness and blindness. Both children are residents of the Philip J. Rock Center, a state funded facility where Katie and Jacob's families say the children have thrived.

"I wouldn't know what to do if I didn't have here to come. She has progressed so much," said Deborah Gibson, grandmother.

"At school he has taken three-four steps forward. If he were to come home, to this loving home, he would take five, six steps back," said Rose Krueger, mother.

Krueger took care of Jacob for nine years at home. He has been at the Philp Rock School for less than a year and Krueger says her son has learned how to walk with a walker and use a spoon on his own. But, the progress Jacob and other children have made is threatened by dried up state funds.

"This school has been here for 32 years and has never experienced anything like this," said Peggy Whitlow, Philip J. Rock Center and School.

Administrator Whitlow says the combination of the state not paying their bills, a line of credit that is used up, and banks hesitant to give the school another loan may force the facility to shut down August 1st. Whitlow and parents have been working the phones and writing letters to the governor to come up with a solution for children they say deserve a future.

"Their adult life is going to look much different than ours, but they deserve an opportunity," said Whitlow.

"Leave these kids alone they have already had enough going against them," said Gibson.

Unlike public school districts that have property tax revenue to fall back on, the Philip J. Rock Center and school relies completely on the state.

Administrator Whitlow says she has gone to several banks asking for loans, but she has been turned down because the state owes the facility money.

ABC7 called Governor Pat Quinn's office and Kelly Craft, director of communications, released a statement: The state is securing $1.3 B in funds as part of a short term borrowing plan to address lower than expected revenues. We close on this tomorrow and will be meeting with the Comptroller to request another payment to the Philip J. Rock Center, out of the $1.3 billion.

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