Students in Churchill High School’s AP government class had a guest teacher Tuesday: State Representative Diego Bernal.
Bernal let North East Independent School District teacher Carolyn Drechsel take the lead for a lesson on bureaucracy, but he stepped in to give examples such as funding for special education.
Bernal said he recently learned that Texas has changed a Medicaid reimbursement policy that potentially leaves school districts on the hook for more special education services.
“We can’t figure out who made the decision or who can fix it,” Bernal said. “In that way, bureaucracy has failed people. … It doesn’t mean it’s bad, but if each level isn’t doing its job (it breaks down).”
Bernal’s legislative director Julia Grizzard said the new policy for the School Health and Related Services program lets the state seek reimbursement from a child’s private insurer after first paying for therapy services via Medicaid. Because parents may not want their private insurer billed, Grizzard said some parents might opt out of the program, leaving the school district responsible for the bill.
Bernal also answered student questions. One asked for his favorite taco — he said he likes bean and cheese for breakfast. Another asked why he ran for office.
Bernal replied that he wants to help people, and sees education policy, especially, as a place he can make a difference.
“I know this is going to sound corny but l really do believe education is one of the few things that can help solve almost every other problem,” he told the class.
Senior Reece Sandercock said it the first time she’s talked with a politician who represents her.
“It was good to be able to actually see what’s going on. You learn in government, but you never get to talk to those types of people,” Sandercock said.
She’s 18 and plans on voting in November.
Bernal is up for re-election, but he’s unopposed. He said he wanted to try teaching for a day so he has a better understanding of how policy affects teachers and students.
“Otherwise we’re just making wildly uninformed decisions, and I don’t want to do that,” Bernal said. “I recognize that I’m not going to get the full experience, but I’m going to get something closer than I would just reading about it.”
Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille