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The Mechanics
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State Politics Thu Aug 05 2010

How Election Year Politics Can Kill a Good Idea and Hurt Kids

As you may be aware, there has been significant growth in the rates of diabetes, for example more than 15,000 children a year are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. As anyone who has this disease or someone who has had to care for them knows, it can be a very difficult disease to manage (FYI, insulin is not a cure).

Schools have had a spotty record at best helping children with this disease.

In order to try to improve the care that students receive in school with this disease, the Illinois General Assembly passed (after failing to act on it for five years). HB6065, The Care of Students Diabetes Act, passed the House 104-1-2 and the Senate 34-8-3).

So you think, "taking care of kids, it passed with large margins with bi-partisan support," what's the problem?"

Well, it allows for someone to be designated to assist the student who is trained but is not a health care professional. Including administering insulin to a child with type I diabetes as directed a parent, guardian or healthcare provider.

You would think this is logical. This is how a child gets insulin now. But Pat Quinn disagrees. He returned the bill with an amendatory veto.

Why? What's the problem with a solution that doesn't cost anything? That all experts agree is a good thing?

Again you would think this is logical.

But this bill is a political problem.

It turns out to there is an objection from three major teacher unions in Illinois. (Anyone want to guess if school nurses in Illinois belong to teacher unions?)

So if you are running for re-election and the teachers unions object to the bill that passed with widespread support, what do you if you are Pat Quinn? Do you listen to the voice of the legislature or that of the unions, who are a lot more supportive of your campaign than even members of your own party?

Let's look at part of Quinn's recommendation for changes:

I believe it is unwise to take a piecemeal approach to the care of students with chronic illness. Students with diseases like asthma and epilepsy deserve to have the same protection under the law as students with diabetes.

Ironically, Illinois law already addresses basic care related to allergies, asthma and seizure disorders. So if we can't help everyone, help no-one. Great logic, Pat. But that isn't the interesting part.

Here is a quote from the IEA Fact Sheet (PDF) on the Bill:

IEA supports a task force (HJR 46) to look at all school health issues (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, food allergies, etc.) Such a task force would allow us to discuss in detail the needs of students and how to best approach them. THis would also allow input from experts in the field.

The task force has existed for over two years and has yet to have a meeting.

Sounds a bit like the governor's objection was cribbed from the IEA (remember this passed the state House with 104 votes).

So kids in Illinois will continue to suffer because the teacher unions think the law is a bad idea.

Full disclosure: My wife works in a medical field that deals with diabetes as a care provider. She does not work in a school setting. This law will have no financial or professional impact on her.

 
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Libby / August 6, 2010 1:14 PM

The three agencies named to the HJR46 task force--the State Board of Education, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Public Health--were all neutral or supportive of bill HB6065, The Care of Students with Diabetes Act.

OneMan / August 6, 2010 4:03 PM

Also virtually every health care professional who deals with this who isn't in a union also thought it was a good idea.

Mini / December 2, 2010 10:14 AM

Rather than reading the wrong message into why the "evil" unions are against this act, think about why they might be CONCERNED. This act requires NON-HEALTH CARE workers to provide diabetics health care. This terrifies people who are not in a health related field. Let's discuss the REAL issue please. It is more logical to enact legislation that REQUIRES A SCHOOL NURSE TO BE ON STAFF AT EACH SCHOOL ON A DAILY BASIS. The reason they need this Diabetes Care Act is that many schools are only scheduled a school nurse once a week. How is that helpful when there is a school health emergency on one of the many days the nurse ISN'T there?

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