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Possible fight looming over fate of Delaware Autism Program

Delaware Public Media

The future of Delaware’s Autism Program for children is unclear with legal fight brewing over who will operate it.

Legislation signed into law in August changed the focus of the Delaware Autism Program to training educators how to teach students with the disorder.

The Christina School District had been running the program, and continued to do so until October when the state moved it to the Department of Education. That came after the program’s director retired in August and the district had trouble filling the position.

State officials say language in new law mandates DOE take over the program if no one willing to administer it. But a district spokeswoman says Christina never told the state it isn’t willing to run it


Christina School Board member John Young said the state removed the program without notifying the board and with no public meetings.

“Plucking a public schooling program away from a local agency without consulting the governing body of that agency," he said. "I think that’s an absolutely a messed up process,” he said.

He wants the district to take the state to court.

“But remember again, I’m just one board member," he said. "Just because it’s how I feel in no way necessarily means that’s what’s going to happen. But I’m certainly telegraphing my considerable displeasure at the state’s behavior.”

Young said Christina entered into a contract agreement with the retired director last month to fill the position temporarily.

The district's spokeswoman says the legislation changed the qualifications for the director's position and there’s a lack of qualified candidates. She didn’t reply to a question asking if Christina plans to take legal action against the state.

A spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget said it was concerned whether the district would be able to continue to provide statewide services to those students.

The legislation creating a pilot program to revise the Delaware Autism Program called for hiring two training specialists in both fiscal year 2019 and 2020. But Gov. John Carney is not currently recommending funding the two in 2020.

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