Classroom teachers recognize immediately the educational value of providing a comprehensive array of services to students living in poverty. They have seen the effects of undiagnosed and untreated eye problems on a student’s ability to learn how to read, and of untreated ear infections on a student’s ability to hear what is being said in the classroom. They know that the lack of proper medical care heightens the severity of childhood illnesses and makes them last longer, leading to more absences from school for students who need every day of school they can get. They have seen asthma reach epidemic proportions among students living in poverty, and they know that the lack of preventive and prophylactic medical care leads to more frequent attacks of a more severe nature, and more absences from school. They understand that screening for lead poisoning happens least among children in poverty, even though their living conditions make them the most likely victims, with all of the negative effects on cognitive functions. They know that the stresses of life in poverty make mental health and social work services for students and their families all that more important, and yet they are least likely to receive them. They see how the transience that marks poverty disrupts the education of students again and again, as the families of students are constantly on the move. In short, teachers know that the students living in poverty lack the health and social services routinely available to middle class and upper class students, despite the fact that they need them even more. And they know that the absence of these services has a detrimental impact on the education, as well as the general well-being, of students living in poverty.Now DeRosa is generally a thorn in the side of the education establishment because he prefers to see actual data to support policy proscriptions and assertions like those Casey made above. Can DeRosa be a little harsh, perhaps, but when public education is spending billions of our tax dollars, it is not unreasonable for educated critics like DeRosa to call the so-called experts on their claims. I too would like to see supporting data.
Disingenuous calls for “evidence” that community schools work require a willful myopia on the effect on life in poverty on education — a blindness made possible by a complete unfamiliarity with the real world of the classroom. It is perhaps inevitable that when one approaches the issue in pride ignorance of that world, the debate quickly degenerates into invective and accusation of lying. (Links in original)
So let's break down Casey a little. Let's take a few of his statements and think about them:
They have seen the effects of undiagnosed and untreated eye problems on a student’s ability to learn how to read, and of untreated ear infections on a student’s ability to hear what is being said in the classroom.They being teachers. On the face of this, it is no doubt true that a child who can't hear or see properly is going to have problems in school. It does not take a double Ph.D and a M.D. to understand that. But what DeRosa and others like myself want is a better line drawn between this problem and the reasons to support expanding schools into being health clinics for the poor. Casey has stated an obvious problem as evidence that his plan for more services provided throught schools is the right one. Here is a lower cost alternative. Have the local hospitals or health clinics provide free or low cost ($5 or $10) sight and hearing tests for school age kids. Doesn't this solve the problem and put experts into a position of providing proper diagnoses and treatment/correction without expanding the already bloated budgets of our schools?
They know that the lack of proper medical care heightens the severity of childhood illnesses and makes them last longer, leading to more absences from school for students who need every day of school they can get.Again, teachers are the "they." Again, there is not correlation between a symptom of poverty, such as this one and Casey and his cohorts advocating for greater school based care. First, again, I don't see any evidence that a poor kid who gets inadequate treatment for a common illness is missing any more time from school than a middle class kid. Medical treatment is available for the poor, it just takes longer to access, but make no mistake, they can get care, often for free. The care is not of a lesser quality. Can access to care be made easier, probably, but that again is not the role of the SCHOOLS, that is the role of the HEALTHCARE establishment. As I stated before, I have no objection to medical clinics using the schools as a facility or location, either by renting or the school allowing the space to be used for free. But that is far different than providing the services through the school.
They know that the stresses of life in poverty make mental health and social work services for students and their families all that more important, and yet they are least likely to receive them.Again Teachers know (are you sensing a pattern). Hey, middle class life is pretty stressful these days. My wife and I worry about making ends meet, about paying for higher energy bills, higher grocery bills and other matters. I don't see the schools being asked to provide counseling for my stress and I would never dream of asking the schools to do so. Schools provide counseling for students in a variety of settings, but why do schools need to provide stress management and social services for the families? By the way, again those services are available, usually for free? Can a social service agency or charitable organziation use a school for a location--sure, but again, I don't want the schools to pay for it.
Casey's entire argument is based on the concept that generally drives me nuts, i.e. "Teachers know....." Teachers know a lot and I respect that they are on the front lines when dealing with the fall out of problems related to poverty. But just because they experience it or see it doesn't mean they should be the solution or that schools should be the solution. As a lawyer I see poor people needing legal advice and lawyers providing it for free or low cost (its called pro bono). A lot of the legal problems poor folks face are related to landlord/tenant disputes, but you don't see calls for the legal profession to start providing housing to the poor.
Here is what I would like to see Casey provide, if he can't provide evidence for these assertions. I would like to see research provided that supports the concept in general. Do teachers themselves (in anonymous surveys by a reputable third party survey group with a properly sampled and conducted survey developed by the polling firm) support the idea of expanding schools to become these Community Schools? Do they support the expansion of their already crowded responsibilities to include all of these other aspects? Will teachers support the need for them to refer children to health/medical/social services? Will teachers accept that they may need to see pay freezes or cuts to pay for these kinds of services? (remember there are only so many dollars to go around).
In addition, has anyone conducted any survey of the supposed beneficiaries of these additional services--the poor? What are their feelings on the matter? Do they want their kids and themselves to be treated by a school and school system that can't properly educate the kids? Will the poor use these additional services? Remember, all of these services that Casey & Company want to house at the local schools are already available (and no doubt known about) in the local communities?
Finally, does Casey have even pie in the sky projections on costs?
Ken DeRosa wants support for the notions that the schools should provide these services, I want to know why do it in this decentrialized fashion when such services are already available in a more centralized location and often at a lower cost than Casey wants to implement.