Tester introduces bill to improve student health

NURSE Act will help hire more school nurses in underserved communities

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today introduced legislation to hire more school nurses and improve student health.

The NURSE Act will allow schools or state agencies to apply for federal grants to reduce the cost of hiring a nurse. School districts will be eligible to apply for the additional resources based on the number of their students who qualify for free or reduced price school meals – an across-the-board indicator of poverty within school districts.

“Improving the health of our students will help them succeed in the classroom. Kids who are sick can’t learn,” said Tester, a former teacher. “Often times schools are the only place children receive health care and increasing the number of nurses in our schools will remove some of the barriers that have kept some students from reaching their full potential.”

“The role of the registered, professional school nurse is to create an environment for all students that stresses safety and accessibility while keeping the student in the classroom. In one recent study, 90% of students seen by the school nurse in Montana returned to class and continued with the school day. School attendance rates affect student learning and performance, graduation rates, parent employment, and school revenue in states such as Montana that fund education based on attendance. The school nurse may be the only source of accessible health care for many children in Montana. Unfortunately, 96% of Montana students have inadequate school nursing services in their school district and 28 of 56 counties have no school nursing services at all,” said Sue Buswell, Public Policy Director of the Montana Association of School Nurses. “Senator Jon Tester recognizes the evidence-based relationship between health and learning. His support for school nursing services is both timely and necessary,”

“Once again, Senator Tester gets it right. School nurses expand the quality of our public schools. Kids whose health needs are met in public schools are able to do much better at school. School nurses are educators, too,” said Eric Feaver, President of MEA-MFT.

According to the National Association of School Nurses, only 45 percent of public schools have a full-time nurse available to students and another 30 percent of schools only have a part-time nurse.

The grants established in this bill will be administered by the U.S. Department of Education and a school district can apply for the grant individually or as a group with other school districts. State agencies are also eligible to join school districts in applying for the grant to support individual districts along with statewide school health initiatives.

To encourage state agencies and school districts to continue investing in school nurses after the grant expires, the NURSE Act requires school districts to provide matching funds to receive the grant. The federal share of the grant will start at 75 percent of the overall cost of hiring a school nurse and gradually shrink over the succeeding years of the grant.

Tester’s bill is supported by the National Association of School Nurses, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Trust for America’s Health. You can read what they are saying about the bill HERE.