By Christina Luick
Educators, and parents joined members of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association (MTEA) and School Board Director Tony Baez to say “no” to Trumpcare at a rally in front of the Administration Building of Milwaukee Public Schools Tuesday morning.
In the healthcare repeal bill, there would be a fixed per capita cap on Medicaid, which would mean large cuts. Public schools, like Milwaukee Public Schools, receive funding from Medicaid. MPS expects to receive approximately $5 million in federal Medicaid reimbursements in the 2017- 2018 year. The worry of the people who gathered is that the funding will be cut.
The plan was to hold the rally under a tree near the entrance of the building but security told the organizers that they had to move off of the MPS property.
“We’re advocating for you guys,” said Justin Bielinski of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.
The rally ended up on the sidewalk at the end of the street, away from the administration building. The night before the rally, the Senate Health Care bill to repeal Obamacare fell through with not enough votes. But, Bielinski said the per capita cap on Medicaid is still in the budget proposal.
“So, we are here today to stand against these Medicaid cuts and what that will do to our students,” said Bielinski.
Kim Schroeder, MTEA President, said the GOP’s replacement for the Affordable Care Act is nothing more than a radical dismantling of federal funding for Medicaid.
“Let’s be clear on this, cuts to Medicaid are cuts directly to our children, our public schools and our communities,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said Medicaid covered 40 percent of children in the United States and 60 percent of children with disabilities.
“The loss of this federal support would be devastating to families around this country and in Wisconsin,” Schroeder said. He added that Medicaid provides about $4 billion per year for health care services in the nation’s schools which is used for things such as vision checks, hearing screenings and physical and occupational therapy for students with disabilities and other services.
“If MPS loses the $5 million that we’ve budgeted this year to help our students, we will have to find the money from somewhere else in an already strapped budget,” Schroeder said.
Angela Riley has been a MPS parent for 23 years. She has a son with special needs who is about to go Fairview and into a program that is supported by Medicaid.
“As I prepare to have him leave my arms and go into the arms of his teacher every day, I don’t know what that’s going to look like if these things are cut,” Riley said.
She asked everyone listening to tell their friends and family about the Medicaid cuts and how serious the impact will be for the children.
“I’m not okay with an administration that I did not vote for making choices that will hurt my child, that will hurt my community,” Riley said.
Elizabeth Sedita is a speech and language pathologist and the job she does at school gets Medicaid reimbursement money. She said Medicaid helps pay for nurses, speech language therapy, occupational therapists and physical therapists. “Personally, communication is a basic human right,” Sedita said.
In her speech, Sedita said one thing Medicaid provides is the ability to provide over 100 students with system technologies for nonverbal students. They use devices from single switches to high tech computerized systems.
“No matter what type of device the student is using, we are providing them with the means in which they can communicate with their peers and teachers during academic and social interactions,” Sedita said, with tears coming to her eyes. “The independence and sense of community a student gets when they begin to use these devices is special.” Sedita ended her speech by saying, “Rather than cutting Medicaid, we need to improve this vital service.”
School Board Director Tony Baez said he came as a citizen and not a school board member. He said there was a serious dilemma in the United States and how it invested in its future.
“There seems to be an increasing sense of, sort of like, grandiose arrogance on the part of the people who are in government, who think that it’s best to continue increasing the huge economic disparities that we have in the country as a whole …” Baez said.
He said that cutting Medicaid would lead to cuts to other parts in the budget, and the consequence would lead to cutting even more needed services.
“Let’s make sure that we get the message out there that we cannot tolerate this anymore,” Baez said. “We need to continue to push for justice for everybody and put quality education for everybody in this country.”