By Justin Wier
Slightly more than 80 percent of Youngstown City School District students receive health care through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program – the highest percentage in Ohio.
Two other Mahoning Valley schools round out the top 11, with 71.9 percent of students in the Warren City School District and 69.8 percent of students in the Campbell City School District receiving health insurance through Medicaid, according to data from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families.
Nationally, about 39 percent of Americans under age 18 rely on these programs.
Elisabeth Wright Burak, director of Georgetown’s Center for Children and Families, said recent studies have shown Medicaid is correlated with better educational outcomes and graduation rates and higher lifetime earnings.
“It’s been really encouraging to see these longer-term outcomes,” she said.
Higher levels of students on Medicaid imply a high concentration of low-income families without other means of obtaining health insurance, she said.
Other Valley schools are below the national average, with Lowellville at 37.8 percent, Austintown at 33.3 percent, Boardman at 26.5 percent, Poland at 13.4 percent and Canfield at 10.1 percent.
From an educational perspective, Burak said, children with insurance are less likely to miss school because of illnesses, and schools should have a stake in making sure kids have the coverage that’s available to them.
“[Teachers] can’t teach to an empty seat,” she said. “Kids getting their health care needs met is a baseline thing.”
Krish Mohip, CEO of Youngstown schools, said he placed a social worker in every school building – in part, to connect parents and families with services such as Medicaid and CHIP.
“It is extremely important that we have these types of services available to our children,” he said.
Recent efforts to cut Medicaid would have had a negative impact on kids and schools, Burak said. Those impacts obviously would be more concentrated in a district such as Youngstown with such a high number of students relying on the program.
Further, states potentially could cut education funding in an attempt to dedicate more state funds to Medicaid, she added.
“I’m never in favor of cutting services to children,” Mohip said. “When you take away services … that are having positive effects on their educational outcomes, you will pay for that down the road several times over.”
Funding for CHIP is set to expire at the end of next Saturday without congressional action.
“We are at an all-time high for health coverage for kids in this country,” Burak said. “That progress is very much at risk.”
Mohip agreed, but said the school district would find a way to thrive if necessary.
“Without CHIP, it would be more difficult for our children to be successful,” he said. “We would still find ways for them to be successful … but it would be another barrier.”