Why Teachers Should Be Worried About CHIP Renewal
By Sheri A. Smith
In December 2017, Congress was able to push through a major overhaul of our current tax bill which promises to cut taxes across the board for major American corporations and for wealthier 1% of the population. However, one major bill they failed to pass included CHIP, which at this time has currently not been renewed for this year.
CHIP, an acronym for The Children’s Health Insurance Program, is a federally funded health insurance program that allows parents who make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid and cannot receive health insurance from their employer to purchase low cost health insurance for their children. 8.9 million children were enrolled in the program according to the CHIP website in 2016 (fy-2016-childrens-enrollment-report.pdf). While both political parties have been supportive of the program, it has been neglected majorly by the GOP for immediate renewal.
Many of our children, not just in urban areas, depend on this coverage to get necessary medical and mental health services to treat many different types of health diagnosis. While many outside influences can affect our children in the classroom, overall health is a major issue that affects learning and how successful students are in the classroom. Students can rely on medications and medical procedures to gain the ability to function appropriately and learn daily. For these students, teachers make many exceptions to help students be comfortable and meet their needs. However, this cannot always and only be accomplished by teachers and school staff. Any adult who has tried to work through a regular cold knows that it is hard to stay focused and on task. This is much harder for little ones with much fewer skills to be able to cope with being uncomfortable.
As teachers, we must get creative in order to help accomplish our primary goal: educating children. However, there are many outside forces that effect what we do within our classroom community. Senators, Congressmen, Governors, Presidents, and Lobbyists have a significant influence on our schools. This ranges from our Superintendents to how well funded our schools are. Within the past year, there are constant reminders of what happens when people speak their voices. Protests, whether for advocating against police violence or immigration policies, have this country on high alert and the attention of many- despite the ire of some who don’t want to hear the noise.
I say this to put forth the notion that we need to be worried about CHIP renewal because it will affect the ability for us to do our jobs. Sick children make ineffective students and can turn us into police officers and nurses, instead of the teachers we have worked so hard to become. What can we as teachers do the effect the necessary change in this lack of attention to this issue?
1) Contact your local government officials. 2018 is a Midterm Election year! That means that there are government officials looking to be reelected. Don’t know who your local elected officials are? Go to https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials in order to find out who represents you nationally and locally. Once you determine this, contact them directly in order to ask them their viewpoints on CHIP and what their plans are to address the problem. Many politicians are willing to meet with their constituents if contacted. Use that opportunity to express your feelings! He or she wants your vote, so they want to have any positive interactions with the community work in their favor.
2) Contact your Teacher’s Union. What is your teacher union's position on this? This is an issue that directly affects teachers and what happens in their classroom. It will affect teachers in your district and is wide spread in many different ways. Does your union support a candidate that will fight to renew CHIP? Are they working with the Board of Education on implementing a sort of plan to help students who are majorly affected by this? It is good to see what others in your position feel about this problem, and also to see how you can get involved to help.
3) Speak to your Team Leaders and Administration. This is an issue you could bring up in a collaborative meeting. Usually, agendas for these meetings allow for those in attendance bring up concerns they are having, and this is the perfect to speak about something that could affect you and colleagues in the near future. Your administration MAY have some knowledge about it, but not much. See how your colleagues feel about it. There may be a need for a reevaluation of medical and behavioral services allotted in the school. This can be a talk that gives your team the ability to plan and rely on each other if and when the trickle down is felt from the (potential) non-renewal of this important legislation.
Take into consideration how you approach people with this information. Come informed, but also come respectful. Politics can get anyone passionate and in their feelings. However, real talk cannot be had if you are only willing to force your side and not listen to others. Real change takes time, but being educated is always necessary in the fight for our students.
If you would like to know more information about CHIP, click here: https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program/
Sheri A. Smith is a thirty-something fourth-grade teacher who currently resides in Maryland. Originally born and raised in Queens, New York, she moved to Maryland in 2013 to work as a teacher and explore all it has to offer near the nation’s capital. She graduated from Stony Brook University in 2004 with her Bachelors in Political Science and History, and in 2006 with her Masters in Social Work. In 2009, she graduated with her MS. Ed in Childhood Education (Grades 1-6) from Hunter College in New York City. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, seeing Broadway plays, Marvel comic movies, Black Twitter, staying afloat on our current politics, and anything Oprah!