I read this week about the rejection in Holly, Michigan by the local school board to a proposal from a parents’ group who wanted to buy an old Holly School District school building and use it to open a charter school. They felt like a charter school might do a better job educating their children. A similar proposal in the Huron Valley School District was also rejected and the buildings were torn down, just as the Holly School District proposes to do with its empty building. The reason given in both cases is that a charter school would take money away from the existing school district. There was no discussion about what is best for the children or whether or not a charter school might provide a better education – it was all about the money.
Education in America, like healthcare and just about everything else is focused upon the money – how to get more and how to keep what they’ve got. Proposals to offer alternatives, whether they represent better education or better health care are always seen as threats to the existing status quo or monopolies and thus are to be resisted.
In health care the resistance to change is being led by the doctors who are resisting efforts to allow Nurse Practitioners to provide much needed primary health care. There was a story in BusinessWeek a week or so back about a nurse practitioner who is the only healthcare provider within 300 miles of her clinic in a small town area out west who is being prevented from providing needed health care services to the residents of that area by doctors in the state. They try to base their case on an argument that the nurse practitioners don’t have the required training to provide those services. In fact they do and the real argument is one based upon money.
The doctors currently enjoy a monopoly status for practicing medicine in most states that allows them to control the money that is spent on healthcare. They have succeeded in convincing the legislatures and the insurance industry that they, and only they, can provide the simple services of a primary care specialist. We’re not talking brain surgeon here; just the take my blood pressure and listen to my heart kinds of simple care services that go along with diagnosing what might be wrong and what care may be needed. None of the nurse practitioners is trying to perform surgery or do other tasks which only a trained doctor/specialist should perform.
Because of the doctors’ monopoly and the lack of enough financial return from being a primary care specialist, the BusinessWeek article pointed out the country is today over 20,000 primary care specialists short of what is needed and th shortage is getting worse. Do the doctors and their lobbying groups care about that – no way. They just keep fighting all efforts to allow the very people who could relieve that shortage from practicing.
So we have educators who are more concerned about maintaining their monopoly on the education funds than on the quality of education available for our children and we have doctors who fight to maintain their monopoly on the heath care funds, even as people go without care and education suffers.
I know that the arguments are more complex that just what has been presented here, but at the base of both examples it’s all about the money. I know many individual educators and healthcare workers who are deeply concerned about the quality of what they deliver and who are focused upon success at educating or healing. They usually aren’t the ones making the money oriented decisions. Those are people in both professional fields who have moved into the management side of those businesses. To them it’s all about spread sheets, ROI and making sure that they get every last drop out of the government and insurance money spigots that fund their fields. They have long ago stopped being educators or health care providers; they are now administrators. They are protecting their businesses, not pursuing lofty dreams of a better world through education or heath care. It’s all about the money.
The same story can be written about many other institutions in our society. Parishes and churches are closing all around us. Why? It’s all about the money. Police and fire departments are being shuttered or consolidated or outsourced. Why? It’s all about the money. I could go on and on. In fact, I have already; so, let me wrap up by asking the reader. What things in your world are important enough such that it’s not just about the money? Do you fight for those things in your communities? Why not? Is it all just about the money for you, too?