Tester Introduces Bill to Hire More School Nurses, Improve Student Health in Montana

Introduction of the NURSE Act marks the beginning of #PublicSchoolsWeek

(U.S. Senate) – To kick off #PublicSchoolsWeek, U.S. Senator and former music teacher Jon Tester today introduced the Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere (NURSE) Act, a bill to help rural and underserved schools in Montana hire school nurses and improve student health.

Montana schools often serve as a primary provider of health care services to children and youth. However only four Montana counties meet the recommended nurse-to-student ratio and half of all Montana counties lack school nurses entirely.

“Investing in school nurses is an investment in student health that will pay huge dividends in the future,” said Tester, also a former school board member. “Montana schools are one of the primary sources of health care for an increasing number of students. Without school nurses, many kids would go without basic physical or mental care. Learning becomes much harder for students in poor health. Keeping kids healthy will help them stay focused and achieve their full potential.”

The NURSE Act would authorize federal grants-administered through the U.S. Department of Education-to help schools and state agencies cover the cost of hiring more school nurses. Schools, districts, and state education agencies would be eligible to apply for these additional resources based on the number students who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. This bill would give priority to applicants with a high percentage of low-income students, as well as those with no school nurses at all.

Tester’s bill is supported by the Montana Association of School Nurses, the Montana Nurses Association, MEA-MFT, and the National Association of School Nurses.

“Access to health care, management of chronic disease, and health promotion are managed by school nurses on the front lines of providing holistic health care to students across Montana,” said Karen Graf, Director of the Montana Association of School Nurses, and Vicky Byrd, Executive Director of the Montana Nurses Association. “It is undeniable that there is a need for more school nurses in our state and others, as this is a crucial step for our public school students to benefit from this access to health care. School nurses help to ensure that students’ various health needs are met so that they can meet their full emotional, physiological, and academic potential. The NURSE Act would help make it possible for more Montana schools to realize the benefit of a school nurse in their community.”

“Once again Senator Tester does the right thing for public schools and student,” said Eric Feaver, President of MEA-MFT. “He knows what teachers and administrators know, that quality education depends on the good physical and mental health of our students. I hope the Congress and the President all get on board. Right away.”

“It is the vision of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) that every student is healthy, safe, and ready to learn,” said Nina Fekaris, President of NASN. “To achieve this vision, we believe that all students should have access to a registered school nurse in every building, every day. Senator Tester’s NURSE Act, is an important step towards the goal of ensuring that children will have their health needs met at school. School nurses are the integral link between health and education, providing students with the necessary health resources that they need to be successful. School nurses understand the importance of community needs assessments and the barriers to learning they identify. They actively implement policies and programs designed to mitigate these social determinants of health. Where there is a school nurse there is an advocate using her or his voice for children, their families and their communities.”

The NURSE Act is also supported by the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and the Trust for America’s Health.

Text of the bill is available HERE. You can read more about #PublicSchoolsWeek HERE.