The half tragic, half inspiring tale of Christian Austin ought to cut through all the political chatter and manipulation concerning health care.
Christian’s two devoted, hard-working parents recently faced a family nightmare, when their beautiful, bright, active son was paralyzed by a mystery ailment.
His parents expended every effort, made every sacrifice and faced every challenge in their fight to save their son. By some miracle, their child has survived — and confounded the predictions of the doctors.
But as a result of this great victory, they face financial disaster — even though their medical bills so overwhelmed their insurance coverage that they ended up medically bankrupt and qualified for help through the mostly federally funded Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).
Fortunately, they managed to enlist the help of thousands of strangers through their Facebook postings that recounted their struggle.
However, the story underscores a shameful truth: Almost two-thirds of bankruptcies in this country stem from medical bills — and 80 percent of those affected actually have medical insurance.
So we hope that the politicians debating the future of the Obama administration’s passage of the Affordable Health Care Reform Act will take note.
By all means, point out the flaws and make needed improvements, but don’t tear it all down unless you can propose a better way to solve these desperate and heart-wrenching problems.
One thing seems certain: We can’t go on like this.
Failing the test
You can lead a horse to water — but you can’t make him turn in his homework. Then again — if a horse flunks out, you don’t pay the cost in social woes and welfare costs for the rest of his life.
So what should we make of social studies teacher Ron Silverman’s insistence that he ended up on the Payson School Board’s layoff list because he insisted on flunking students who didn’t turn in homework and couldn’t pass their tests? When parents complained, Silverman says the administration caved — and approved the wholesale transfer of students from his classes.
Certainly, the problem posed by failing students eludes easy answers — but poses cruel choices.
On the one hand, you don’t do a teenager any favors by obscuring the link between choices and consequences. It’s hard to think of a lesson more damaging than teaching a teenager that a call from Mom or Dad counts for more than doing the assignment — and passing the test. Clearly, the administration must back up teachers who set high standards.
On the other hand, the district’s own statistics show that a daunting 27 percent of high school students are failing one or more classes on almost any given week. That dismaying failure rate only improves in the senior year — but perhaps because many of the juniors struggling to pass, simply dropped out. Please note: Gila County has one of the worst rates in the country. Each year, 5.6 percent of seventh- through 12th-graders drop out — compared to 2.5 percent in Maricopa County.
But based on the class-failure rates, it looks like if the administration is pressuring teachers to pass students no matter what — it’s not working. Either that or the failure rate ought to be much higher than 27 percent and we’ve got a brain-crushing problem on our hands.
So what do other teachers say?
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Some agree with Silverman — some don’t.
But wait: that’s not the interesting part. Please note: not a single teacher Roundup reporter Michele Nelson interview would talk on the record.
After three years of layoffs based on a “ruberic” that seems at best murky and at worst capricious, most teachers in this district seem scared half to death. Maybe Silverman got the ax for tough grading, maybe he got the ax for criticizing the administration, maybe he got the ax for imposing unrealistic standards, maybe he got the ax for alienating parents — no one’s sure. Unfortunately, Payson’s criteria for drawing up the death list doesn’t provide much illumination.
The Legislature bears a share of the blame, since it barred school districts from considering seniority and tenure when laying off teachers — a rule that invites abuse and manipulation of the layoff process.
So you can lead a teacher to a ruberic — but you can’t make it fair unless you’re willing to level with teachers and parents and stick to clear criteria that aren’t just an excuse to get rid of someone you don’t happen to like.