Ga. disabled student athletic programs to lose funds

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ATLANTA — Massive budget cuts mean state funding is likely to be pulled from a program that organizes competitive team sports for disabled high school students.

The American Association of Adapted Sports Programs, a nonprofit, learned last week it's losing its main source of funding — $705,000 in state Department of Education funds.

The association was founded when Atlanta hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. It regulates and organizes competitive wheelchair basketball and other team sports for disabled students.

The funding cut had nothing to do with the association's performance but was a part of massive budget cuts being made throughout the agency, said DOE spokesman Dana Tofig.

"They provide a great service and run high-quality programs," he said. "Our central office budget — which the AASP contract is part of — was cut by $7.6 million, a reduction of about 18.5 percent."

The state money accounts for about 85 percent of the association's annual funding, and its loss is a "catastrophic" blow to the organization and to programs in school district, said association co-founder and director of operations Tommie Storms.

"We believe they can't, within their heart of hearts, realize what they did," she said, referring to DOE officials.

She said she expects anger about the cut to lead to discrimination lawsuits and a push for federal legislation that would guarantee the rights of disabled student athletes, much as Title IX does for girls.

"I just hope (state Superintendent) Kathy Cox is ready for this," she said.

Some parents plan to attend Wednesday's state school board meeting to try to get the funds restored.

Tofig said it's possible, "but I'm not aware of any plans at this time to reconsider."


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