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Dear Mr. President,
Yesterday, a bad thing happened. The House republicans passed The American Healthcare Act, the bill designed to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act. I know that you are not very interested in reading the bill in its entirety, just as you are not particularly interested in the millions of people this bill will hurt. You see no need to heed the advice and warnings of patient advocacy groups; nor are you interested in listening to the American Medical Association’s condemnation, the American Hospital Association’s condemnation, or the American People.
But I am a public school teacher. My job is to teach every person in the room, regardless of their apathy, enmity, or ability. My job is to individualize instruction for every student and make sure that they all have the resources they need and the hands-on learning they need to be able to truly master the content. (Just yesterday, in fact, I was concisely explaining exactly what The Civil War was all about.) So I am willing to sit with you, Mr. President, and patiently teach you at your individual learning level, so that you can understand what just one of the very serious problems is with this bill.
Before you ignore me and go back to Twitter, know that I am quite used to working with students who would rather be on social media than in the classroom. I also understand that you are not very respectful of teachers in general, but I am quite used to teaching students who are defiant; I have the patience and the perseverance to work with you and help you succeed. I also know that, instead of taking the opportunity to ask the highly qualified and highly professional and highly respected Teachers of the Year to tell you about the true state of public education in our nation, you instead asked them to pose for photos with you and sing Happy Birthday to your wife. No matter. I’ve been doing my job much, much longer than you have been doing yours. I have thick skin.
Because I earn a teacher’s salary, I cannot afford to fly to Washington D.C. or Mar-a-Lago to meet with you. But if you would be willing to visit my classroom, I would welcome you. After all, I teach 150 students a day; there is always room for one more. During your visit, I will introduce you to the many students who, without the vision testing paid for by Medicaid, would not be able to read because they would not be able to actually see. I will introduce you to the one-on-one aides who work in our building, their salaries paid for by Medicaid, so that students with severe disabilities can get a “Free Appropriate Public Education tailored to their individual needs” (which is, of course, required under the Individuals with Disabilities Act.) I will patiently explain to you what will happen to high-needs students with disabilities once the Medicaid funding is cut. I will show you the language in The American Healthcare Act, that says that states would no longer have to consider schools as eligible Medicaid providers. As noted in a recent New York times article, “School districts rely on Medicaid, the federal health care program for the poor, to provide costly services to millions of students with disabilities across the country.”
I would show you the statement put out by AASA, The School Superintendents Association, strongly rejecting the American Healthcare Act, succinctly pointing out “School-based Medicaid programs serve as a lifeline to children who often can’t access critical health care and health services outside of their schools.” And I would explain to you that the word “lifeline” in their statement is not simply a hyperbolic metaphor, but is literally an explanation that, without these school-based Medicaid programs, lives will be lost.
And if my words and teaching methods still don’t help you master the lessons, I will ask my colleagues to help. Together, we will do everything in our power to show you the steps you need to take to reverse this course of action. It is imperative that you learn how to lead our country forward, into a place where all students, regardless of need or disability, will have a chance to truly succeed. You can expect that we will be willing to stick around and teach as long as you are willing to learn. We would teach you, Mr. President, because teaching is what we do. We are passionate about our profession, and we are passionate about every single student in the room. We treat them all with equity and respect and empathy, and you can expect that we will treat you the same way. In fact, you can expect that you will leave our district truly impressed with the quality of public education in our country.
And you can also expect that you will finally, truly understand that the services provided by Medicaid are critical for our citizens, for our students, and for our schools.
Just don’t expect us to sing to your wife.