Last week, the School District of Philadelphia announced a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking ideas for school based clinics. On the surface, it could almost be a good idea, but it is just one more way to privatize school nurses and to provide another underfunded bad idea. Last Thursday, May 21, school nurses, educators, and local supporters held a rally outside of 440 Broad Street during a School Reform Commission meeting in protest of the RFP and the further privatization of nurses.
The other problem is that the School District of Philadelphia, once again, plans to open its doors next year with another deficit or just enough to maintain the status quo if City Council votes to give them the proposed $150 million dollars. This school year like every other will be another waiting game in school funding.
In an ideal world, the one where decisions are actually made to help Philadelphia Public School students would fully fund a comprehensive school health care system that included robust care in regard to mental health, internal medicine, and more. Each region would have a clinic that works directly with the school nurses at each school. But, each of the buildings would have a school nurse solely dedicated to a single school and not one shared among many as a result of staff cuts. In fact, in a fully funded perfect world, we would have a school psychologist and social worker at each school to create an actual team to deal with the constant documented trauma that exists for many of our school children and families.
Imagine a clinic that worked in collaboration with the school nurses so that the same two local hospitals are not inundated with disconnected services or even worse children never get the services that they need due to a lack of connection between the school and health centers. This could be a great idea if it was not centered on saving money or even making more staff cuts. This could be a great idea, if there was not a chance that it could end up underfunded like every other great idea the School District of Philadelphia has attempted. Remember Promise Academies or the tragic loss of Reading Specialists. Or, the district can review previous clinic models that used to be at some of the schools that are now shuttered. We have to keep asking the same question. How many more students have to die?
Let us continue to keep our eye and shine a bright light on this pending RFP process. Continue to speak out against it at future SRC meetings. And hopefully, the School District of Philadelphia will actually make a positive decision based on actual research that has been provided time and time again instead of always replacing the wheel with a broken one that is doomed to fail.