@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

State to overhaul formula for funding school nurses

Posted May 21, 2018 5:30 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2018 6:52 p.m. EDT

— The state is poised to make changes in how it pays for school nurses.

The Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee voted Monday to ask state school and health officials to overhaul the funding formula, which has been based for years on a per-student ratio.

Low-income and rural school districts say that formula doesn't accurately reflect the needs of different communities, so educators and health officials are being asked to devise a new way to calculate the actual workload for a nurse in a given district, based on such data as the percentage of exceptional children, the district's poverty level and what other health care is available in a community.

Although the School Nurse Association of North Carolina favors the proposed overhaul, spokesman Alex Miller said changing the formula doesn't change the fact that the state isn't adequately funding school nurses to meet even the old standards.

Officials said catching up to the current formula would take an extra $55 million a year, and putting a nurse in every school in North Carolina would cost $76 million.

"Really, the need is for the students to continue to be healthy and safe in school and be able to learn," Miller said. "There's no investment the state can make that would have a greater impact on that than more school nurses."

School nurses have become a focal point for discussions on improving school safety in the wake of recent school shootings in other states.

Gov. Roy Cooper has proposed an extra $40 million in the state budget to hire up to 500 nurses and counselors for schools statewide. Lawmakers also are seeking funding for additional school nurses.

Funding for school nurses comes from several sources, including Medicaid and other agencies, Miller said. Proposed legislation would require the state to consolidate that funding to get a more accurate idea of the need.