Medicaid Cuts and Schools

In a recent letter to Senate Leadership, the school superintendents association (AASA) urged the Senate to review the latest iteration of the Obamacare repeal and replace effort that the Senate will likely take up again when they return from the July 4 recess next week. Echoing the concerns of school officials across the country, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) recently urged the Senate leadership to be mindful of the consequences of cuts to Medicaid: “Trumpcare would mean massive cuts to schools and districts and massive pain for students and families.”

Here are two specific ways that Medicaid cuts will hurt schools – particularly schools in deep red states:

Federal Tax Cuts = Local Tax Increases: For many years Medicaid has been paying part of the costs of federally mandated services for students with special needs. If the requirement to supply services remains but the federal money dries up (to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans) then President Trump and the GOP leadership will simply be requiring local and state authorities to raise taxes. “A loss in Medicaid dollars,” the AASA letter states “could lead to deficits in districts that require increases in property taxes or new levies to cover the costs of the special education programs.”

Long-term Impact of Loss of Mental Health Services:  “Seven out of ten students receiving mental health services receive these services at school” according to the AASA, and the proposed cuts to Medicaid would dramatically reduce mental health services to students. Coupled with cuts that would accompany a repeal of the ACA, millions of American students would be operating without a safety net. While few will go on the record predicting the impact of these cuts, it’s easy to imagine an increase in bullying, school violence (possibly including shootings), and higher dropout rates if professionals are not available to head off crises before they have dramatic impacts on communities. It’s also important to note that mental health professionals help students navigate the challenges of adolescence and have an impact on graduation rates and consistently help produce more students who are ready for college. If we reduce the supports students receive from these professionals we are likely to have more people in our communities less equipped to contribute socially and economically.

It’s worth underscoring that these Medicaid cuts will enable President Trump and the Republican leaders of the House and Senate to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans. While they are cutting taxes in the hope of stimulating the economy and increasing economic productivity, in the end they’re taking services away from needy students in Canton, OH or Las Cruces, NM or Mobile, AL and giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans who live mostly on the coasts.


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