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Rep. DeGette trying to salvage lost CHP+ funds for Colorado

This month, Colorado had to return $19.1 million in unused federal funding for health insurance for low-income children under the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHP+).

The program requires all 50 states to establish health insurance programs for the children of working poor families.

Colorado had to return $19.1 million of its $41.8 million because the state program has enrolled only 35 percent of 69,100 eligible children. The returned portion could have insured up to 28,000 needy kids,

Under current law, all forfeited CHP+ funds are given to the states that used their entire appropriation to enroll children in the program.

Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, who sponsored the bill that established the program two years ago, is pushing a measure that, if successful, would allow Colorado to salvage 60 percent ($11 million) of the forfeited $19.1 million for use in CHP+.

The measure passed in the House Commerce Committee and now sits in a House Ways and Means package. It is expected to face the full House before Congress adjourns this month. It is being opposed by Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens. His state, Alaska, is one of the states that would get the forfeited Colorado funds.

A recent audit of the Colorado program found it plagued by excessive administrative costs, punitive eligibility criteria, needlessly complicated enrollment procedures, widespread billing errors and chronically underutilized funding ("The Chips Are Down," Aug. 30).

Governor Bill Owens subsequently set up a three-person task force to recommend changes in how the Colorado program is set up and administered. DeGette met with the governor to suggest 22 changes that would alleviate enrollment barriers and improve program efficiency, coverage and outreach, health benefits and access to care.

Some of DeGette's recommendations include: expanding coverage from 185 to 200 percent of the poverty level; simplifying the application and enrollment process; adding dental benefits (Colorado is the sole state lacking them), and recruiting providers.

Have a Coke with a math class

A recently-released report on how children are bombarded by advertising and commercialism from the day they enter kindergarten to the day they don cap and gown strongly shows that efforts to turn schools into corporate marketing warehouses continue to soar.

Colorado Springs largest school district, D-11, has bragged about being at the national forefront of securing cash by signing corporate sponsorships with everyone from Coca-Cola to Cub Foods to U.S. West Communications, Norwest Banks, Little Caesar's pizza, Wendy's, Memorial Hospital and even Perkins Motor Company ("Drink up, kids!," Nov. 25, 1998).

But D-11 is certainly not alone in its efforts to raise money by promoting advertising inside public schools, which, along with churches, used to be considered bastions of non- advertising.

The Wisconsin-based Center for the Analysis of Commercialism in Education (CACE), which studies the trend of making mini-consumers out of students, reports that, between 1990 and 2000, the national trend was clearly on the upswing. CACE broke its findings into seven categories:

Sponsorship of programs and activities: up by 248 percent. (This includes local and national businesses paying for or subsidizing school events or activities in return for the right to associate their name with the activity.)

Exclusive corporate agreements: up by 1,384 percent (including district-wide exclusive contract deals with soft drink companies).

Incentive programs: up by 231 percent. (These corporate programs provide goods or services to schools to encourage students to stay in school or demonstrate particular behaviors, like learning to read. Among the best known is Pizza Hut's Book It! program.)

Appropriation of space: up by 539 percent (the space in which schools allow corporate logos and advertising messages to be placed).

Sponsored educational materials: up by 1,875 percent (corporate-sponsored lesson plans and other educational materials, including a Ford Motor Company curriculum that promotes its commitment to the environment).

Electronic marketing: up by 139 percent. (Corporations donate electronic equipment in exchange for rights to advertise their products. Best known are Channel One television and ZapMe! computer programs.)

Privatization: up by 3,206 percent (for-profit companies starting up private and charter schools of their own).

"Although some attempts have been made to develop a legislative response to school commercialism at all levels of government, it becomes increasingly evident that the members of local school communities must take responsibility for preventing commercial activities from overtaking the essential purpose of school: education," the report concludes.

The full report can be reviewed online at www.schoolcommercialicialism.org.


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