Children's health care is in severe jeopardy under the Trump administration and a deeply divided Congress

If It Ain’t Broke, Break It!

by Ron Koehler  

People continually reference President Trump's ghostwritten book "The Art of the Deal" while struggling to understand his communication techniques and tirades, searching for some rationale or recognizable governing strategy.

Perhaps, instead, they should assume the better description for Trump's governance comes from from business management guru Robert Kriegel, who gained a following with his 1991 best-seller "If It Ain't Broke, Break It."

The only convention practiced by Trump to this point is the executive order, which he criticized during the campaign but has used during his first nine months in office to undo virtually everything accomplished by the Obama administration except slaughtering the turkeys President Obama pardoned at Thanksgiving. That, of course, could come in a tweet next month.

Still, despite a few somewhat unnerving pronouncements for budget cuts and vouchers by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, education has escaped largely unscathed. That could soon change.

We've written before in SNN that health care is essential to student success. Children who have chronic pain, or who have parents and family members in pain without care, cannot focus on their education. Indeed, the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute concludes: "The most profound impact of the cuts to health coverage could be a decline in student achievement. Research shows us that students eligible for Medicaid are more likely to graduate from high school and complete college than students without access to health care."

Children's health care is in severe jeopardy under the Trump administration and a deeply divided Congress. The Children's Health Insurance Program expired on Sept. 30. If Congress does not act quickly to extend funding for CHIP then school districts will lose funding for the critical health services provided to low-income children.

The New York Times recently reported the federally funded nonprofit Michigan Consumers for Health Care, responsible for enrolling Michigan residents for health insurance, recently learned its funds will be cut by 89 percent, from $1.2 million to $129,000. Honored last year as one of the nation's top performers in providing access to health care for the uninsured, the cuts will make it extremely difficult for the organization to fulfill its mission of connecting those in need with affordable insurance. Thousands of children and their families may suffer the loss of needed care.

Other Threats Overlooked

Another federal service essential to schools, E-Rate, is threatened to change dramatically. Lobbyist Noelle Ellerson Ng of the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), recently reported "the FCC is considering a policy change which would deeply cut -- if not eliminate -- its support" for a crucial component. The universal service Schools and Libraries Program, commonly known as "E-Rate," provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help eligible schools and libraries in the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access.

These cuts could severely curtail a Michigan initiative to connect schools to high-speed internet, which is essential, as mandated student testing is now conducted online. Rural areas, especially, suffer huge gaps in internet access and speeds. Michigan invested in an extension of high-speed internet hubs across the state, but the ability to connect schools to those hubs is now in jeopardy due to the threatened loss of federal support. Kent ISD, for example, is now considering investing its own locally-generated resources to connect its 20 districts to the high-speed hub, which would dramatically reduce their cost of internet service, email and other essential online services.

Finally, AASA fears the Trump tax plan rubs SALT in the wounds of all Michigan taxpayers and their schools by proposing to eliminate the State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT-D) for individuals. One of the original deductions for the middle-income taxpayer, the State and Local Tax Deduction eliminates federal taxes on resources generated locally for services and capital projects, thus removing the "double taxation" argument for income and property tax financing for local schools and municipal projects.

Of course, the total elimination of after-school programming financed through the 21st Century grant program and the professional development funding provided to schools through Title II funding remains in the administration's budget, although Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has told the administration the committee, and the Senate, would not approve a budget containing those reductions.

We've all been distracted by Twitterstorms between the President and North Korea, Sen. Robert Corker and his own Secretary of State. These prevarications are diverting our attention from real actions that will most certainly blow a hole through the safety net for the economically disadvantaged, and further break down our ability to provide the most essential of services, which is an education for our children.

Submitted on: October 13th 2017

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