(I spent an afternoon in the ER, the source of inspiration for this post.)
In America, we provide the poor with health and dental care, but not necessarily convenient care. Dentists may be an hour away, which often translates to a whole lost school day if multiple children and meals are included in the dentist visit. When a student goes to the emergency room with an ear infection or similar childhood ailment, another day is lost.
Eduhonesty: Our poorest zip codes tend to be our most academically-challenged zip codes. I continue to push for a longer school-year for lower-scoring districts. This one small example supports the need for this longer school year. A twisted ankle where I live may result in an academic loss of two hours to a morning doctor appointment. Where I worked, that same injury required a day of waiting until the emergency care doctor could spare a few minutes.
Students also miss school when parents or siblings go to the ER. When the family stays up all night, everyone may stay home to sleep the next day. Sometimes mom or dad will take all the kids to the hospital because of bus and babysitting issues. If a parent doesn’t expect to be home for the afternoon bus, that parent may opt to keep the family together at the hospital rather than risk a child being dropped off in front of an empty house.
America’s poorest students frequently get their health care at the hospital. Often they don’t have a family physician. In the ER, staff only gets to the ear infections after almost everybody else has been taken care of.
Across the country, this use of emergency rooms for healthcare represents many, many hours of school lost.
P.S. Despite some misgivings over the Affordable Care Act, I feel I must give kudos to President Obama for taking on the monster issue that is national healthcare. I have let too many students sleep at their desks because they spent the whole night in an emergency room when a brother or sister got sick.