See our Best of Detroit 2020 winners.

Vicious vigorish 

Lansing’s red tape is stifling Detroit’s ability to service tens of thousands of low-income children — and state Rep. Hansen Clarke, D-Detroit, is trying to do something about it. Currently, Michigan takes 40 cents of every Medicaid dollar slated for the state’s schools. The money is taken for “administrative” needs and goes straight into the state’s general fund, Clarke says. The Medicaid dollars — about $100 million a year — are intended to reimburse schools for federally mandated programs such as counseling, social work, and speech and physical therapy. Nationwide, states take an average of 10 percent of school Medicaid dollars for administrative costs, says Clarke, who’s seeking a state Senate seat. Last week, Clarke proposed amending the state budget to reduce Lansing’s take to 20 percent. Detroit especially is crossing its collective fingers in hope the measure passes. “It’s desperately needed,” says Bruce Elkins, Medicaid coordinator for Detroit Public Schools. “We have all these mandated services going back to the 1970s, without adequate resources to hire people and implement those services.” Elkins estimates that the district spends about $100 million a year to service 86,000 Medicaid-eligible special-education children. The city will get $10 million from Medicaid in the 2002-2003 school year for such services, Elkins says.

More than 50 percent of that cost is paid by Detroit taxpayers, he adds. “Quite honestly, it’s a very unfortunate situation. The state is denying the schools money that was intended for the schools.” Clarke learned of the situation after Detroit Public Schools announced layoffs earlier this year. He began digging around to find ways to generate more money for the district so employees could keep their jobs and improvements could occur. At minimum, the reduction for administrative costs must be made, he says. “The state is actually undermining the schools’ efforts in places like Detroit to improve services for kids,” says Clarke. “And I don’t think anyone can justify a 40 percent administrative fee.”

Lisa M. Collins is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail lcollins@metrotimes.com

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Read the Digital Print Issue

October 28, 2020

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit