Practical nursing program
shouldn’t be tossed overboard
By Leo Canty
Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 12:09 PM EST
Jetsam is an amusing word for vocabulary enthusiasts. Unless you’re a crossword junkie or a mariner of sort you may not have much use for it though. Most ship captains are not fans, since they know the word doesn’t have any relationship to fun and they’d rather not have a need to use it at all.
But, in this economic maelstrom we’re in, the captains of our ship of state are faced with tough decisions about how to weather the storm and come out intact. One choice is to take on a heavier load temporarily and provide more stability on the rough seas. The other is to empty out the hold and lighten the ship by tossing overboard anything they can get a hold of.
The outcome of those tactics often depends on the storm.There’s no doubt we’ll weather this one so the better choice is stability. Tossing everything overboard may bring storm survival but with little left but a lighter ship and piles of irretrievable jetsam lining the bottom of the abyss. Adding a bit more weight that can be dispensed when the seas calm will ensure we still have a ship to sail and contents that will help provide for our futures when the sun shines again.
One item among many in our state in line to become jetsam as the captains debate how or when it may be tossed is the licensed practical nurse adult education program.
The LPN program is offered at 10 state technical high schools and rewards about 350 eager students with productive lives in health care as LPNs every 18 months. There are about 400 students and 44 teachers at work in the program now. Students pay $4,850 in tuition, about 20 percent of the full cost of the program.It’s claimed that suspending the program would save the state $1.7 million. But an analysis by the State Vocational Federation of Teachers, the union representing teachers in the vo-tech school system, shows that suspending the LPN program will actually cost the state $850,000 or more.
Most of the teachers are protected by the no-layoff agreement with state employee unions and they’ll be placed in comparable positions, as they essentially will be paid not to teach. In addition, the state must repay application fees to the 1,000 applicants already lined up for the program. Lost tuition that covers the salaries of the teachers and maintaining dormant facilities adds to the cancellation costs.
A better reason to make this program jetsam-proof is jobs. Our rate of recovery from the storm is directly related to rates of rehiring and new job placements. The best way to storm-proof our future economy is to ramp up the jobs.
Unfilled jobs do not generate taxes or put dollars back into the economy when Connecticut needs it most.At a recent press conference, Matthew Barrett, from the Connecticut Association of Healthcare Facilities, pointed out that new data shows baby boomers trending as less healthy and more likely to need care.
The Connecticut Department of Labor forecasts 324 openings for LPNs each year for new and replacement positions. Suspending this program will have a significant impact on those job openings and the care that needs to be provided in already understaffed health-care facilities.
Just let applicants go to private LPN programs, some say. There are three private LPN training programs in Connecticut. But most students don’t have access to enough gold doubloons to pay the tuition, which ranges from $32,000 to $48,000 — a bit more than the $5,000 affordable tuition at the vo-tech program.
This program has demonstrated value, has served the state well in developing and placing qualified people in decent jobs, and is critical to fulfilling future health-care needs.
The LPN program could be saved and restored by the end of this month without consequence. Otherwise, we all lose out. The next restoration window would be September. By then the damage will be done, as some job and public health stability will have been senselessly tossed away.
That’s not an amusing use for jetsam at all.
Leo Canty is a labor and political activist. He lives in Windsor.