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Jefferson City Special Learning Center using pandemic relief funds to expand

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

Jefferson City Special Learning Center wants to double its capacity to teach children with special needs by creating a new facility with the help of state funding.

Gov. Mike Parson ceremoniously signed House Bill 3020 at the current Special Learning Center located next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School Wednesday afternoon. The bill allocates $3.5 million to the school. The school has to raise another $3.5 million for its expansion to total $7 million.

Special Learning Center

Executive Director Stephanie Johnson said the expansion will double or possibly triple the school's enrollment capacity. The Special Learning Center currently serves over 700 students each year.

"When I started 18 months ago, there were 100 children on the waiting list here," Johnson said. "That's incredible. That's 100 kids that really desperately need our services. We do not have the space to add more services or staff or children. This makes it possible."

Parson said this is not a one-and-done situation, but the groundwork for future state involvement in education.

"That's what really $3.5 million is all about," Parson said. "It's about trying to really get it where it needs to go and make sure we're taking care of the kids."

The Special Learning Center was founded in the '80s under former director Debbie Hamler when the Goshorn Handicap Center and the Peter Pan School combined.

"When you work in a special learning center, you find that there are miracles every day, and you saw some of the children, who are truly miracles," Hamler said.

The school serves 11 counties in Mid-Missouri and 22 school districts. Johnson said money is not an obstacle for attendance.

"A child is never turned away due to lack of pay," Johnson said. "You can come to the Special Learning Center and receive a comprehensive program that helps every facet of the need of your child."

Johnson hopes the new facility will be up and running in two to three years. The first step is to find a new location, which Johnson hopes to accomplish in the next three to six months.

H.B. 3020 vetos

Parson is not signing H.B. 3020 in its entirety, as he has line-item veto on budget bills. Parson vetoed over $600 million dollars between 13 line items, including funds for a new Highway Patrol academy, several capital improvement projects across the state and funding to establish a hospital.

The largest of the vetos is the $500 million in general revenue that was allocated as the Tax Credit Offset. This tax rebate was added as an amendment.

"The appropriation bill directs that funds be transferred from the general revenue to the Tax Credit Offset Fund, but contains no language authorizing the expenditure of any funds out of the Tax Credit Offset Fund" Parson's veto letter reads.

Instead of the tax credit, Parson called for a special session to discuss tax cuts across the board. Parson proposed a cut to the overall income tax rate, getting rid of tax brackets and making the rate the same for all taxpayers. He also proposed raising the standard deduction to $16,000 for individual filers.

A date for the special session has not been announced.

Article Topic Follows: Jefferson City
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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.

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