Also Left Behind

Santa Fe Reporter | November 10, 2004
The re-election of President Bush has not only left residents of blue states

feeling helpless and depressed, it has also raised the anxiety levels of those in the education and healthcare fields. While school officials worry that Bush will continue to under-fund the No Child Left Behind Act, healthcare officials fret over the rising rates of medical care as well as the future of reproductive rights.

"I think that when [Bush] was reelected it was a sad day for America," says Rina Rivera, a nurse at La Familia Medical Center. "There’s a lot of Americans without healthcare. There’s no insurance." Rivera says that while clinics receive grants to treat the low-income, such grants provide only enough funding to detect illness and not to treat it over a period of time.

"It’s obvious that healthcare in general is in crisis, and it’s very difficult for families to be able to get adequate healthcare for children and there are even more serious crises for adults," says Leah Steimel, director of Villa Therese Catholic Clinic. Steimel says that clinics that serve the poor have had to squeeze their resources. "Their resources are high in demand, and they have such a number of people they’re trying to serve, and their ability to be able to serve those people is getting more and more


Steimel, who has a background in advocacy for immigrant healthcare, says some of the current problems plaguing healthcare date back to the 1996 Welfare Reform Act authorized by the Clinton administration. "That made it illegal for immigrant families that did not have social security numbers or legal residency to get healthcare or any kind of services in any place that receives federal or state funding. What we’re seeing now is a combination of what was initiated by that law in 1996 and the few net providers having higher health insurance premiums, so more and more families are getting pushed

out of the conventional methods to afford healthcare."

Steimel says President Bush has provided no solutions to these problems. "I personally don’t have a lot of hope there’s going to be real relief for low-income families, in particular for immigrants," she says.

While Planned Parenthood serves low-income patients as well, the organization’s main concern is the imprint President Bush will leave on reproductive rights, says Chris Lalley, public relations director of Planned Parenthood of New Mexico. "We’re obviously concerned that one of his goals in the next four years is to frankly criminalize abortion and overturn Roe vs. Wade," Lalley says. "When abortion came up in the debates he said he has no litmus test on appointing judges on the Supreme Court. We think that’s a lie. One of his litmus tests for judges is that they be anti-abortion. I personally think he would like his legacy to be leaving the White House having overturned Roe vs. Wade. Ultimately I think President Bush is really dangerous for women in general."

Lalley also fears for the fate of sex education under the Bush administration. "If he would have his way, abstinence would be the only thing taught," he says. "Abstinence is good. We preach abstinence, but you can preach abstinence until you’re blue in the face, and the fact of the matter is that people are going to choose to have sex. It’s got to be abstinence, plus sex education. That equals safe sex."

The National Education Association, who backed John Kerry for president, is concerned with the umbrella of educational issues. "He had the most comprehensive reform plan of any candidate who’s ever run for office, and he promised to fully fund No Child Left Behind," explains NEA spokesman Daniel Kaufman of the group’s decision to back Kerry. "He also had an excellent proposal to increase teachers’ salaries." Kaufman says now that Bush has been re-elected, he hopes the president makes an effort to ensure that schools have funding. "They’re going through a very severe budget crisis. There’s schools that are really strapped for cash for art and PE." For instance, in Santa Fe, elementary schools must fundraise to pay the salaries of physical education teachers. Kaufman says another NEA concern is that No Child Left Behind has resulted in educators teaching to the test rather than engaging in well-rounded instruction. He also takes issue with English language learners having to take standardized tests in accordance with No Child Left Behind, resulting in schools with large amounts of such students being punished for not making adequate progress. "Also, there’s dropout programs (under No Child Left Behind) that the Bush administration did not fund."

University of Colorado political science professor Sven Steinmo has written extensively on education and healthcare and believes the future of both fields looks bleak. "Bush believes the most important thing to do is to have tax cuts, which means public services in both education and healthcare will have insufficient resources," Steinmo says. "What’s going to happen in my view is that the quality of public education will decline as more and more kids will have to pass these tests, and more and more people will go to private schools."

Steinmo’s predictions for healthcare aren’t any more auspicious. "The cost of healthcare will continue to go up," he says. Consequently, people "won’t get preventative healthcare. They will end up getting extreme care." As a result of the number of people expected to seek healthcare for chronic and degenerative illnesses, the

trillion dollar deficit the government is experiencing may just go another trillion deeper.

Santa Fe Reporter

When it was founded in 1974, the Santa Fe Reporter's mission was to create lively competition for a stodgy and timid daily press. That tradition continues today. The Reporter investigates beneath the surface, presenting in-depth stories often overlooked or uninvestigated...
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