Philadelphia Cuts School Nurses, 6th Grader Dies of Asthma Attack With No Nurse On Duty

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

JESSICA DESVARIEUX: Welcome to The Real News
Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore. Philadelphia sixth-grader Laporshia Massey
suffered an asthma attack at school on September 25 but couldn’t receive any help, since no
nurse was on duty. That’s because the district eliminated 3,000 positions, including nurses.
Unfortunately, 12-year-old Laporshia died shortly after returning home. Joining us now to discuss this tragedy are
journalists Daniel Denvir and Philadelphia school nurse Eileen DiFranco. Thank you both for joining us. DANIEL DENVIR: Thank you. EILEEN DIFRANCO: Thank you. DESVARIEUX: Daniel, so I know that you had
direct contact with Laporshia’s family. Can you just describe for us what happened that
day? DENVIR: According to Laporshia’s father and
the father’s partner, she began having asthma issues at school that afternoon. They received
two phone calls, one each from the school. They did not realize how serious the situation
was. Later that afternoon, a school staff member ended up driving Laporshia home, ostensibly
because she was too sick to walk home. And within–according to the father, within 15
minutes, he drove his daughter to the hospital. She collapsed in the car on the way. She had
taken–tried medication, getting on her nebulizer at home. It didn’t work. He rushed her to
the hospital. She collapsed in the car. He stopped the car, flagged down–blocking an
ambulance in the street, flagging them down. They took over, took her to the hospital,
where she later died. It’s unclear–we can’t say for sure whether
a nurse being there that day, whether they could have foreseen what would happen or saved
Laporshia’s life, but that’s a big question that the parents have and that a lot of people
in Philadelphia are asking right now. DESVARIEUX: As you mentioned, Daniel, there
was no nurse on duty, but this isn’t a unique situation. In 2011, 289 school nurses worked
in Philadelphia. Now only 179 such nurses work in the district. That’s a decline of
nearly 40 percent. Eileen, how did we get here? And who do you see as being responsible? DIFRANCO: Unfortunately, one of the first
things that Governor Corbett did when he became the governor was that he decreased education
funding by $1 billion. One-third of that funding was designated for Philadelphia. Unlike 47
other states, Pennsylvania has no funding formula. So instead of having this formula,
it’s basically orchestrated by politicians in backrooms who have no understanding of
the noxious effects of poverty, and they have no understanding of education itself. Our current crop of politicians also tends
to listen to reformy so-called innovators like Michelle Rhee. This unfortunately has
led to severe cutbacks in our city, as you mentioned, in our school district, as you
mentioned. Our school nurse service has been cut back. Not only that, we have few to no
counselors, we have no vice principals, and other school personnel have been cut back.
So what this means is that we have fewer eyes, fewer ears, fewer hands, and fewer minds that
are able to deal with situations like Laporshia’s. And, unfortunately, in spite of all this,
our governor continues to hold the school district hostage. There’s $45 million which
he has refused to provide to the school district unless the unions give back 10 percent of
our salaries. So I feel that our governor is playing chicken, a mean-spirited game of
chicken with vulnerable children. DESVARIEUX: Okay. And Governor Corbett has
said that education cuts are necessary to close the budget gap. But in June, the GOP-controlled
state legislature passed a corporate tax cut that’s estimated to cost the state $600-$800
million a year. That’s more than double Philadelphia schools’ deficit for the next fiscal year.
Daniel, can you explain the role of powerful interests in changing the education system
in Philadelphia? DENVIR: Yeah. Well, first, on the revenue
side you do have Governor Corbett saying that there’s just not enough money and cuts have
to be made. Yet he has allowed corporate tax breaks to be put in place. And perhaps even
more importantly, he has refused to place a significant tax on natural gas drillers
who are exploiting massive energy reserves in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale. You also
have tons of tax loopholes allowing corporations to shelter money in Delaware that there have
been many proposals to close, and he refuses to do so. So there is revenue out there. On the city level, you have major corporations
like Comcast, you have major nonprofits like the University of Pennsylvania who are getting
major property tax breaks, or in the case of these wealthy nonprofits, not getting taxed
at all. So on both the state and the city level you
have a lot of powerful interests that could be contributing more. DESVARIEUX: Okay. Well, thank you both for
joining us. DENVIR: Thank you very much. DIFRANCO: You’re welcome. DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on
The Real News Network.

8 thoughts on “Philadelphia Cuts School Nurses, 6th Grader Dies of Asthma Attack With No Nurse On Duty

  1. "Kid dies of asthma? Who fucking cares as long as women and the profits of the rich are protected. Hopefully it was a boy." -Hilary Clinton Supporter

  2. If the kids misbehave the school calls the police
    If the kids get sick, why can't they call 911 or instead of taking the kid home, take the kid to the hospital. The kid was obviously very not well.

  3. You have it all wrong! These are poor black kids living in ghettos in terrible school districts with terrible teachers & staff, but it's the kids fault if they can't compete! You crazy socialism libs! She just couldn't compete, we should read the Wall Street Journal article "If I were a poor black kid," she could've used Skype on her wifi Macbook for help. (**SARCASM**)

  4. On January 30, 2013, Corbett unveiled his plan to privatize Pennsylvania’s state-run wine and spirits stores. Corbett estimated the sale of retail and wholesale licenses would raise an estimated 800 million to $1 billion. His administration has pledged to use this money for an educational block grant used toward school safety, enhanced early education programs, individualized learning and science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and programs.

    What happened with that I wonder?

  5. Every piece of shit politician who has ever even received a single cent of corporate money should be thrown out into the street and stripped of office and their assets, even their clothes and left with nothing.

  6. The wealth that is derived from the labor, creativity, and service of the commoner must go directly to the private corporate oligarchy and Crony politicians who serve the oligarchy. It is wasteful to have this wealth go into schools much less some school girl. Beside, Chris Christy needs to eat another cow for lunch.

  7. Why is there no mention of Pennsylvania's $50 billion in unfunded pension liabilities?  What does Michelle Rhee have to do with budget cuts?  A tax on corporations is really a tax on their customers and why should taxpayers get billed more to pay teachers' pensions?  But go ahead and eliminate corporate tax breaks and watch those companies leave the state.   And get ready for more budget cuts as unfunded pension liabilities keep on growing.  

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