Congress has passed a $26 billion aid package that is intended to save the jobs of thousands of teachers, nurses, and other public-sector employees. To critics who call the measure a "special interest" bill, President Barack Obama says, "I suppose if America's children and the safety of our communities are your special interest, then it is a special interest bill."
In politics everyone claims to be on the side of the children, but who really is? Pat DeLorenzo is a parent whose daughter suffers from epilepsy. Like roughly 10,000 other epileptic schoolchildren in California, eight-year-old Gianna suffers from the type of prolonged seizures that, without immediate attention, can result in brain damage or death. After witnessing the response of teachers and school nurses to one of his daughter's life-threatening seizures, Pat DeLorenzo now believes that teachers and nurses care more about protecting union jobs than saving epileptic children.
DeLorenzo feared the worst when he receive a call from his daughter's school, informing him that she had suffered a seizure. Gianna survived that day, but DeLorenzo was outraged that school administrators had not given his daughter Diastat, a drug that stops seizures before they do permanent harm and is FDA-approved for use by laypeople. Today many schoolchildren must wait until an ambulance brings them to a hospital before they receive Diastat. That's much too long, says DeLorenzo who supports, SB 1051, a California bill that would allow trained non-medical volunteers to administer Diastat at schools.
Epilepsy advocates like the Epilepsy Foundation and physicians groups like the California Medical Association have lined up to support the bill. Unions representing teachers, nurses, and other public employees have lined up in opposition, claiming the bill would put children in danger. Their solution: hire more school nurses.
"The unions are not on the side of the kids," says DeLorenzo who believes unions are more interested in expanding their ranks than protecting epileptic children.
"It's exactly the opposite," says Gayle McClean, southern section president of the California School Nurses Organization and a member of the California Teachers Association. "We care deeply for children and we want them to receive the most appropriate care and that means they need a licensed medical person caring for them."
Sacramento lawmakers sided with unions and have refused to bring the bill up for a vote. The bill will officially expire on August 31.
"Union Jobs vs. Children's Lives" is written and produced by Ted Balaker. Field Producers: Paul Detrick and Zach Weissmueller; Additional Camera: Austin Bragg, Production Associate: Sam Corcos.