Sen. Hassan calls Trump budget, AHCA threats to special education

  • Maggie Hassan Jim Cole

Monitor staff
Published: 5/26/2017 12:03:24 AM

New Hampshire’s junior senator is slamming the White House budget plan and the Republican proposal to replace Obamacare as a direct threat to services provided to students with disabilities.

“As we know, cutting budgets doesn’t stop people from having disabilities, or stop people from getting sick,” Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan said on a call with reporters Thursday.

Both President Donald Trump’s budget and the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act propose deep cuts to Medicaid, which provides health care to more than 70 million Americans, including children, pregnant women, low-income people, seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Medicaid also helps reimburse schools for medical services that are related to a student’s disabilities. Last year, Granite State schools got back a combined $29 million.

The AHCA would cut $834 billion from Medicaid over 10 years. It would also allow states to make schools ineligible to receive the funds, which education advocates worry states will be highly tempted to do if Medicaid is transformed into a block-grant system with limited funding, as the bill envisions.

It’s unclear exactly how much the Trump budget would cut from the program, but estimates range anywhere from $600 billion to $1.4 trillion.

The Concord school district received just a little under $1.2 million in Medicaid reimbursements in 2016, according to state data. The Merrimack Valley School District got nearly $480,000, Bow received a little under $320,000, Pembroke took in about $250,000, and Hopkinton netted about $220,000.

“These cuts are part of a continued agenda from this administration, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, to target the educational rights of students with disabilities. And it’s truly unacceptable,” she said.

Hassan, who has a son with cerebral palsy, has sparred with DeVos, who has supported voucher programs that don’t require private schools to accommodate disabilities.

Trump’s budget faces significant opposition in Congress – from both sides of the aisle – and is expected to receive a complete re-write. Still, Republicans are expected to try to make deep cuts to entitlement programs, including Medicaid, which has long been a target for House Speaker Paul Ryan. The AHCA narrowly passed the House with uniform opposition from Democrats, and it faces an uncertain future in the Senate.

Hassan was joined on her call with Mike Skibbie, the policy director for Disability Rights Center New Hampshire and Carl Ladd of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association.

Ladd said that, with special education services dictated in large part on state and federal law, cuts to special education funding would have a domino effect on the rest of a district’s budget.

“If schools lose funding for Medicaid, districts would face huge budget shortages and could be forced to cut access to behavioral health services, health screenings and school nurses that countless students depend on,” Ladd said. “Some districts might even have to cut teachers and entire academic programs.”

In a statement sent through Hassan’s office, Concord Superintendent Terri Forsten said cuts to the Medicaid to Schools Program would be “absolutely devastating” and potentially hobble the district’s hopes of rebuilding its middle school soon.

“These kinds of cuts inappropriately pit the necessity of funding special education programs against other community priorities when we should be working together to do what is best for all students,” she said.

 

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)




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