Wednesday Reading List: Healthcare in Schools, A Day Without a Woman, and Accomplices

As Congress searches for a way to upend the Affordable Care Act, Alyson Klein of Education Week examines the education ramifications of healthcare reform:

Here's why school districts should care: They get a lot of money from Medicaid, which helps cover the cost of services to eligible kids in special education. (Think speech therapy, occupational therapy, even devices like wheelchairs.) In fact, AASA, the School Superintendents' Association, estimates that school districts get about $4 billion a year through Medicaid. (That's not chump change. In fact it's about a third of federal special education state grants, and roughly the size of the Obama administration's Race to the Top program.) AASA surveyed 1,000 educators in 42 states and found that two-thirds of districts use their Medicaid funds to cover salaries of professionals who work with students in special education. And about 40 percent use the money to hook kids up with other health services. In some states districts use the money to help cover things like vision and hearing screenings for Medicaid eligible kids.

While $4 billion is a lot of money in the aggregate, the funds are spread thinly across thousands of districts and schools. Many of the professionals whose salaries are covered by Medicaid are contract providers, and not career educators; given that context, it will be interesting to see whether or not the unions play a bigger role in the politics of healthcare reform this round.

Speaking of educators showing up for things, Alene Tchekmedyian of the Los Angeles Times looks at today's worldwide protest - "A Day Without a Woman" - and sees education implications:

Thousands of women are expected to participate in “A Day Without a Woman,” a spinoff of the women’s march that drew millions of people across the country and around the world into the streets a day after President Trump’s inauguration. Planners of the march are urging women around the world to stay home from work, avoid shopping or wear red on Wednesday — which is also International Women’s Day — to “highlight the economic power and significance” of women. Schools may feel some of the biggest effects. Roughly three-quarters of U.S. teachers are women, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Two school districts in North Carolina and Virginia have canceled classes, telling about 27,000 students to stay home because not enough teachers and staff plan to show up for work.

On the one hand, this political action is intended to call attention to the fact that women are essential to the functioning of the country, its civic life, and the economy. The absence of women from our schools is perhaps the most salient way to execute that tactic. On the other hand, an unexpected day without school is a hardship to manage for some families. Women whose leadership I respect come down on both sides of this issue, so if you're trying to be an ally to women, I encourage you to listen to their perspectives before jumping to conclusions.

Sharif El-Mekki expounds on the idea of allyship on Philly's 7th Ward, explaining why he prefers accomplices:

The activism of my parents and their friends was undergirded with their contributions to education reform from the 1960s onwards. Dismantling White supremacy and all the intersecting -isms has always been a multi-layered effort. But, if you look closely, all of these efforts have been undergirded with the demand for a better educational system and educational justice ... just as the freedom fighters before us stood against police brutality, racism, housing discrimination, and all other forms of injustice they saw, so should we. However, core to this resistance is the belief that educational justice must anchor our work as we address the myriad issues that plague our country. To do this, we need more than allies. We need John Browns. Allies, move over. Make room for our accomplices.

You can start to read more about the distinction between allies and accomplices here; it's worth understanding the nuances, especially if you're white (hi!) and aspiring to be helpful.

(NB: That gif is WAY funnier if you've seen one particular episode of the show Atlanta.)

Finally, Emily DeRuy of The Atlantic examines a program at Central Michigan University that cultivates conversations across political lines:

On Tuesdays, the group arranges a few desks in an unlocked classroom in a circle, sits down, and talks. It can get tense, but no one yells, no one storms out, and everyone has a chance to explain why they feel the way they do. Afterward, they sometimes go for drinks and late-night snacks at the Applebee’s nearby. The society is one example of how, at a time when Washington and much of the rest of the country is gripped by political polarization that can make substantive conversations about policy differences difficult, college students on politically divided campuses, who are part of a generation many older Americans expect to be apathetic, have found a way to have those conversations in a productive way.

Read the whole article, because it's critical to understand how the dialogues are facilitated. It's easy to disconnect from people whose opinions differ from yours, and this effort is a way to curtail that impulse. That said, it's ALSO easy to put too much faith in the idea of persuasion and dialogue as a mechanism for political change. Some people, unfortunately, have a vested interest in continuing to not hear the perspectives of other. Or as Assata Shakur once said, "Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them."

Have a great day!