Proviso Democrats marching to the slaughterhouse

Opinion

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Carl Nyberg

Dear Democratic Party,

If the Republicans create lose-lose scenarios for Proviso, please call the game for what it is. If the Republicans are shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to the rest of us, show a little outrage.

What am I talking about?

The Republicans are shifting the burden of paying for health care for poor students from Medicaid to Proviso High School District 209. This means the cost is being shifted to local property taxesâ€"the primary source of Dist. 209 revenueâ€"from the federal income tax and state taxes, Medicaid's sources of revenue. The rich get tax breaks while homeowners get tax hikes.

And the chief of staff of Congressman Danny K. Davisâ€"labeled a "liberal" by the professional punditsâ€"came to persuade the rubes in Proviso Township that marching to the slaughterhouse is the best deal we can get.

The School Based Health Center at Proviso East started taking patients in 2001. Michael Manzo, the former president of the school board, says the arrangement was sold to Dist. 209 as being funded by Loyola Universityâ€"presumably with federal grantsâ€"in perpetuity. Dist. 209's obligation would be to provide space for the center.

Here we are in 2005 and the School Based Health Center leadership wants to see "commitment" from the local taxpayers. In this case "commitment" translates to funding at least 50% of the project that costs $500,000 per year. Presumably, like other health care costs, the cost will increase faster than the rate of inflation.

The people that get their paychecks at the SBHC will claim they provide superior health care to Medicaid. It may be true. But if school based health centers are the best way to deliver health care to teenagers, why aren't they being implemented at York, Oak Park-River Forest and New Trier? If society has something bright-and-shiny for suburban public high school students, doesn't it normally arrive at those other high schools before Proviso East?

Davis' chief of staff claimed money is tight in Washington. It's not. There's plenty of money for the Iraq War. There's enough money for tax cuts. The federal government doesn't lack resources; it lacks the will to pay for health care to poor Black high school students.

If I was cynical I might think Davis and the Democrats are prioritizing the desires of a few health care providers over the interests of the Proviso community. The SBHC workers don't want to look for jobs and Davis is using his influence to keep them from having to shop their resumes. Dist. 209 taxpayers have to pay for something that's not our responsibility, but so what?

Dist. 209 wastes over $100,000 per year on insurance commissions to the Democratic Committeeman Eugene Moore. There isn't much outrage about this. District 209 wastes $10-30,000 per month on Danielle Ashley, a public relations firm that does in-kind political work for board president Chris Welch. There isn't much outrage about this. Dist. 209 reportedly paid $500,000 to cover the judgment against Melrose Park mayor Ron Serpico in the case Trombetta vs. District 209 and Serpico. There isn't much outrage about this.

So Proviso taxpayers have invited the federal government to run the bait-and-switch on us. If we don't make a stink about politicians diverting school district money to wasteful causes, the Republicans and the feds expect we won't make a stink about diverting education money to good causes. The system has beaten down Congressman Davis so much that he'd rather go along than complain about the injustice.

What's next? Will Dist. 209 pay for repairing the pothole strewn sections of Madison Street and First Avenue near Proviso East? It's a good cause, and spending money to educate Proviso East students sure doesn't seem to be working out.

Hopefully, you think it's outrageous to suggest that money spent educating Proviso East students is wasteful. But when money earmarked for educating Proviso East students is diverted to other things that are not the school district's responsibility and we stay silent, our silence says "money spent educating Proviso East students is money wasted."

I have discussed my perspective with Congressman Davis. We did not have a meeting of the minds, and I do not feel I can adequately explain his position, but I hope he will take the time to clarify it in a letter to the Forest Park Review.

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