Proposed cuts to the Medicaid program under the federal health care bill, now making its way through the U.S. Senate, could mean $8.7 billion for New Hampshire’s schools, reported the Keene Sentinel. Local district leaders are speaking out:
According to administrators, Medicaid cuts would mean schools receive less federal reimbursement for services for students with disabilities than they’re getting now. That, in turn, could create budget hardships at the local level, officials say.
Kimberly Saunders, superintendent of the Peterborough-based ConVal Regional School District, said the potential for federal funding cuts has long factored into budget planning, and that contingencies are frequently drawn up.
Now, every school district in New Hampshire receives the funds. ConVal took in $373,000 in Medicaid reimbursement last year, according to figures provided by Hassan’s office. The Keene School District received $574,000.
Reducing the Medicaid funding, Saunders said, would not reduce the legal requirements under the 1975 act. But it would mean that money for the same services would have to come from elsewhere. That, she added, would likely mean cuts to other programs. Saunders specified that if forced, she would prioritize eliminating programs over staff.
“Losing the Medicaid funding impacts the efforts of schools to continue to improve students’ success,” Saunders said. “It takes away resources from all students.”
Richard Matte, director of student services at N.H. School Administrative Unit 29, which serves schools in Keene and six other towns, said the cuts would hit local taxpayers and strain the schools’ ability to provide for disabled students.
“Cutting this funding would have a substantial impact on our local communities,” Matte said.
The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires all public schools in New Hampshire to provide services for students with disabilities. Since 1988, schools have been allowed to use Medicaid funds for low-income students with disabilities to provide those required services.
The proposed bill does not change requirements for special education services, meaning that districts will still be required to provide services despite the reduction in funding.
Here is a breakdown of how much each school district in New Hampshire received in 2016 through the Medicaid to Schools program, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.