Thursday, March 12, 2009

Education and the Single-Payer Plan


are much better qualified to tackle this subject than I am. I have never been an educator and my only experience with schools has been as a A) Student, B) Mother of students, and C) Grandmother of students.

I do have a few opinions on the subject that I would like to explore. I watched the new Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, on the Charlie Rose show. One point he made that hit home to me was the inequality of standards between states. A student in Mississippi can be 40% below a student in Wyoming and still test the same because the standards in Mississippi are so low. I had a personal experience in this disparity when I was 12 years old. I accompanied my grandparents to their annual three month winter vacation to Florida. This meant I had to enroll in school there. Much to my delight, I found that the curriculum was a piece of cake. They were so far behind the schools in Colorado that I never had to do homework. Of course I paid for my vacation when I returned to Colorado and had to catch up with my class. Remember that this was 72 years ago so I am not implying that the same situation occurs in Florida
today .

It is obvious now that our students are falling behind other top-performing nations. The "No Child Left Behind" program has failed to achieve the goal set for it due to low standards, weak tests and underfunding.

To correct this weakness in the system President Obabma proposes to set National standards, reward excellence, and raise the pay for good teachers while eliminating poor teachers.

Testing will be done to see if the States are falling in line with the National standards and to see if the students are improving, but it will no longer be done by States but by the National standard. In addition to subject matter, testing will also be for the ability of the students to think critically. I have always been a champion of critical thinking and vehemently hope this becomes a reality.

If I understand the new rules, there will be no more teaching to the test. Schools, teachers and students are to be rewarded for excellence. That alone should inspire schools and teachers to become more proficient. That's the carrot; the stick is that the failing states will not be able to use their money from the Stimulus package unless they follow the National Standard of testing.

I want more details on Obama's plan to increase the number of Charter Schools. I do understand that he will only keep those schools that are innovative and successful and will close the failing ones. My only fear is that they won't be monitored as closely as public schools. I also wonder if the money given to them will further decrease the money that public schools need. The devil is in the details.


Following are excerpts from an article in Truthout by Amy Goodman.

President Barack Obama has taken single-payer health care off the table. Single-payer is the system that removes private insurance companies from the picture; the government pays all the bills, but health-care delivery remains private. People still get their choice of what doctor to go to and what hospital to use. Single-payer reduces the administrative costs and removes the profit that insurance companies add to health-care delivery. Single-payer solutions, however, get almost no space in the debate.

Congress is considering H.R. 676, "Expanded and Improved Medicare for All," sponsored by John Conyers, D-Mich., with 64 co-sponsors. Yet even when Rep. Conyers directly asked Obama at a Congressional Black Caucus meeting if he could attend the White House health-care summit, he was not immediately invited. Nor was any other advocate for single-payer health care.

Conyers had asked to bring Dr. Marcia Angell, the first woman editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, the most prestigious medical journal in the country, and Dr. Quentin Young. Young is perhaps the most well-known single-payer advocate in America. The White House's response to Conyers' request that Young be included in the summit? A resounding no. Perhaps because Obama personally knows how persuasive and committed Young is.

After much outcry, Conyers was invited. No other single-payer advocate was to be among the 120 people at the summit. Finally, the White House relented and invited Dr. Oliver Fein, president of PNHP. Two people out of 120.

Locked out of the debate, silenced by the media, single-payer advocates are taking action. Russell Mokhiber, is joining others in burning their health-insurance bills outside in protest. Mokhiber told me, "The insurance companies have no place in the health care of American people. How are we going to beat these people? We have to start the direct confrontation." Launching a new organization, Single Payer Action (, Mokhiber and others promise to take the issue to the insurance industry executives, the lobbyists and the members of Congress directly, in Washington, D.C., and their home district offices.

Nobel Laureate in Economics Joseph Stiglitz, who told me, "I've reluctantly come to the view that it's the only alternative," to health-care providers themselves, who witness and endure the system's failure firsthand. Geri Jenkins of the newly formed, 150,000-nurses-strong United American Nurses-National Nurses Organizing Committee ( said: "It is the only health-care-reform proposal that can work. ... We are currently pushing to have a genuine, honest policy debate, because we'll win ... the health insurers will collapse under the weight of their own irrelevance."

Dr. Young has now been invited to a Senate meeting along with the "usual suspects": health-insurance providers, Big Pharma and health-care-reform advocates. I asked [Dr] Young what he thought of the refrain coming from the White House, as well as from the leading senator on the issue, Max Baucus, that "single-payer is off the table." "It's repulsive," sighed Young. "We are very angry." But not discouraged. I asked him what he thought about Burn Your Health Insurance Bill Day. "Things are heating up." he chuckled. "When things are happening that you have nothing to do with, you know it's a movement."

You can read the full plan by accessing the link below and downloading the pdf file.



Kay Dennison said...

What about those who can't pay?

lilalia said...

Darlene, your article contains much food for thought. There is only so much government can do to improve our (both in the States and in Germany) impoverished educational systems. But, I'm doubtful that governmental efforts can make all the necessary changes as quickly as needed. This shifts some of the responsibility to parents, grandparents, concerned citizens, further education institutions to help in any way they can to expand our children's educational experiences.

Darlene said...

Kay, there is a provision for low income and they will get their health care without pay (or very low pay).

Lilalia, Of course good education starts in the home. I think Obama recognizes this as he has stressed the need for involvement of parents. He specifically told them to turn the TV off, among other things. Some parents are too uneducated or lazy to help their children and that's why Obama also wants more money for pre-school education. How quickly all of this can be accomplished is probably the elephant in the room.

Femin Susan said...

I love your blog and reading about a life so interesting and different....
Keep up the great posts. Love, light and blessings to you and your family :)

20th Century Woman said...

I worry about using tests to reward teachers. Wouldn't that mean that the really good teachers would want to work in schools that are located in upper middle class neighborhoods? That's where the kids have the advantage of educated, affluent parents and all the opportunities that provides. Surely their test scores would be better than poor children's, whose parents have to struggle just to keep food on the table and a roof overhead.

Darlene said...

20th Century Woman, you make a good point, but there have been many documentaries about good teachers in the disadvantaged areas who made a difference. I believe the reward to teachers would be based on the difference they make in the education of their students. The advantaged already do well so it would be hard to improve their lot.

Darlene said...

Femin Susan, Thank you so much for your very kind words. I do hope you will visit again. Please leave the name of your blog so I can return the visit.

Looking to the Stars said...

I'm concerned also about rewarding the teachers. We have friends who are teachers on the western slope, we haven't talked to them about this yet. I'll be intersted in what they think. Thier kids are poor (my husband and I give our friends donations for their kids, for them to do things).
I'm also concerned about the health plan. Do you think we are going in the right direction?

Darlene said...

Lois, I think that any incentive to do better should be considered. I am concerned about who will be the judge. If I understand Obama's plan, the progress of the classroom under a teacher will be the criteria.

AS for the Health Care plan - I sincerely believe after much study that until we get a single payer plan in place we will never have affordable health care. The profit must be removed or individuals, companies, or governments will be bankrupt under the present system. Health care should be a right - not a privilege.

joared said...

Am catching up with you after being away from blogging a bit and making some changes, too.

Thought provoking words here. There were tremendous discrepancies between schools, states when I was a young person in school so many years ago. There still are after all these years. I'm not too keen on the teacher awards proposed, but I certainly haven't liked all the student testing that has prevailed as a solution.

I want to be sure that whatever health care system prevails that timely delivery of services is a specified criteria in any plan adopted. A review of other countries systems often held up as models for the U.S. needs to occur so our system can compensate for and/or rectify the short comings of those plans.

naomi dagen bloom said...

Darlene, It was the energy from people like you and me that got two single-payer advocates into the recent meeting on health insurance. It is my hope that more readers of TGB send their emails to the groups working so hard on this--PDA, CNHP-Now, among others.

"Burn Your Health Insurance" is new to me. What baffles is that people are not pouring into the streets to converge on legislators everywhere. Maybe with the coming of spring,we will see some louder demands.

By the way, Ollie Fein is a terrific presenter--even though a physician!

Darlene said...

Jo Ann, you make a good point about timeliness. Right now it sometimes takes months to get an appointment with a specialist. It couldn't be much worse, but I think it would be better.

Welcome back to the blogging world. Glad you are posting again. You are one who does her research and writes very interesting blogs.

Thank you, Naomi. I think we need a strong leader to get people energized and protesting en mass.