Proposed budget maintains funding for Jacksonville autism school
Aaron Bean carried the Senate ask.

Legislators wanted more money than the school got this year.

Sen. Aaron Bean and Rep. Jason Fischer teamed up to try to get the Jacksonville School for Autism’s job program more state money this year.

Ultimately, however, the ask in the budget to be passed Friday in the Legislature will hold at $250,000, rather than the $300,000 originally sought by each legislator in their respective chamber.

That is the same amount of money as last year, and those will be non-recurring funds, meaning the case will have to be made again in a few months as committee work begins for the 2021-22 Legislative Session.

The Senate local funding initiative request from Bean describes “tremendous growth” in the school, which serves five Northeast Florida counties.

“JSA started with 2 students and 2 staff and has slowly and intentionally grown to support 60 students with over 50 teachers and therapists! With 1 in 50 children diagnosed with Autism, JSA continues to experience significant growth in student enrollment and program development,” asserts the request to fund nine employees for the school.

JSA’s Supportive Transition and Employment Placement (STEP) Program offers “job skill training and coaching to young adults with developmental disabilities.” And that program runs the gamut, per the request.

“JSA vocational students will provide services to the Northeast Florida community through a variety of outlets. They will provide confidential shredding services to local clients. They will sell apparel and merchandise to local vendors and individuals throughout the community. They will become a fulfillment and distribution center for clients both locally and nationally. They will grow, harvest, and sell locally-grown produce throughout local farmer’s markets. The list will go on and on as our business opportunities continue to expand through the use of additional funding and resources. Several enterprise options will be tested in an effort to solidify a long term sustainable funding model.”

Fischer’s funding request covered much of the same ground, but justified the increased funding in light of the pandemic.

“Due to COVID-19 and health risks for students with (compromised) immune systems, the goal is to bring the community to the students while building employment and community-related skills.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at [email protected]


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