School Watch: Tomorrow’s One-Stop Shopping Schools

Fear not. It’s like the unicorn, it will never be seen on this earth,” pronounced John Fund, a Wall Street Journal editorial writer. In this manner he foretold the stillbirth of Hillary Clinton’s comprehensive plan for national health care.

But more like the phoenix, nationalized health care has arisen in new and more alluring guise. Reborn but little noticed, it is integral to Washington’s monolithic plan to “restructure” public education. As expressed in the latest block of federal education laws, American’s “21st century schools” are to be “one-stop shopping” centers for seamless social services—not just clinics for physical health care, and not just for children.

In these womb-like “school settings or nearby sites,” all children also will be socially, mentally, and emotionally incubated. There, too, the “pressing needs” of their families, and indeed the community-at-large, will be systematically “identified” and “coordinated” with services, ultimately through federal mega-databases.

Educrats are touting these transformed schools as community “hubs.” However, many parents, such as Sarah Leslie of Iowa, warn that the intent of these social engineers is to usurp the parental stewardship of children. She cites the “Revised Risk Factors Form,” a plan put forth by the Iowa education establishment, which includes declaring “at risk” those children whose parents refuse the new school services. Such devices may be used to justify governmental intervention in home life, for example, impromptu visitations by “home-health” experts.

Also, this cornucopia of services is to be financed through, not only public-private “partnerships,” hut, of all things, Medicaid! Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services has conveniently extended Medicaid, the tax-supported insurance program for the needy, to include all children from birth to 21 years, who meet elastic new requirements under Special Education, provided for by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Children’s eligibility for these funds is no longer to be determined by amount of family income. Thus, schools are now transformed into providers with every incentive to expand their pools of Medicaid-eligible “clients.”

Incredibly, promoters of this new arrangement, such as the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, are advertising the “little-known loophole”—of their own invention—which allows all children, not just the needy, to apply for Medicaid.

Sound eerily familiar? In 1993, according to reporter Charlotte Grimes, Ira Magaziner, President Clinton’s point man on health care, announced the administration’s intention to merge Medicaid into the main health-care system, “partly to reduce the stigma of being in the program.” “The administration,” Magaziner said, “would change the regulations so that patients don’t have to spend so much of their own money before qualifying for the program.”

Equally inventively, Medicaid in schools can now fund “mental health wrap-around services,” or treatment for emotional disturbances—that is, in addition to providing pupils with physicals, diagnostic screenings, pregnancy tests, and intervention procedures for at-risk behavior. To paraphrase the testimony of Anita Hoge, a Pennsylvania mother, at a recent hearing of the Department of Interior, on any “bad hair day” or for anecdotal or subjective reasons, a child might be certified as emotionally disturbed and qualify for treatment under Medicaid.

The “bible” according to which schools will identify these disturbances is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), which is used in therapists’ offices, social agencies, and prisons. Examples of behavior which could lead to labeling children on the DSM “psycho-social stressors scale,” coded to relate to Medicaid categories, include acting angry, annoying other people, arguing with adults, blaming others for misbehavior, having a fight with their parents, and breaking up with their boy friend or girl friend.

What’s more, as Hogue observes, Medicaid simultaneously serves to implement the “mental health outcomes” required by all states for graduation and correlating with federal standards, such as self-esteem, adaptability to change, and interpersonal skills. When children do not attain such government-ordained outcomes, they may be identified as having a “developmental delay or problem at home,” and their families may be identified as “dysfunctional.” This, in turn, will “trigger case management” of the child’s family.

Where did this utopian, statist update come from? Although unlegitimated in the public square, it is enshrined primarily in Goals 2000, the driving force of the new education laws. To he exact, every school accepting funds provided by Goals 2000 must survey its community’s needs and provide for them. To ensure compliance, the law requires that every local school district describe in its application grant how it will implement the new school-based services. Blessedly, Congress seems to be reconsidering the wisdom of this legislation, which it heedlessly allowed to be pushed through in haste.

The school-based “health” clinic is the already entrenched prototype of the brave new school “delivery system for coordinated services.” It has been widely and vociferously criticized for intruding upon the privacy of pupils and families, particularly in personal matters such as sex. It is the embryonic forerunner of the vast governmental collaboration to come—that is, the grand merger of school and state departments of health, public welfare, labor, and industry. In all this, of course, the federal lodestar is to light the way.

Those who may find all of this farfetched should note that architects and planners are already designing the new mall-like schools. They are to provide space for the public before, during, and after the school day, for twelve months of the year. As noted by the Public Education Network, one such elementary school in Chelsea, Mass., houses a police substation along with neighborhood health clinics. Another, in Washington Heights, N.Y., houses medical and dental clinics.

In short, thanks to the ever fertile minds of federal planners, the defunct Universal Health Plan may yet live on in the public school. And, who knows, perhaps there is a niche even for the academic needs of America’s future citizens.


  • Candace de Russy

    Candace de Russy is a nationally recognized scholar on education and cultural issues and an Adjunct Fellow at Hudson Institute.

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