Casey Backs Bill to Increase School Nurses

NURSE Act would let big districts apply for federal grants to help pay for nurses.

The same day that Philly schools opened with a shortage of nurses — and a week after the district was sued over a death blamed, in part, on a similar shortage last year — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey has announced his support for a federal bill that will help increase the number of school nurses available in big city districts like Philadelphia.

Under the NURSE Act, “school districts across the state where the ratio of nurses to students is greater than 1 nurse per 750 students would be eligible to apply for grants,” his office announced. “High need districts, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, would receive preference in the process.”

State law currently requires one nurse for every 1,500 students, according to Newsworks, but the the Education Law Center says 750-to-1 is a safer ratio.

Casey made the announcement during a press conference at 30th Street Station with Cheryl Peiffer, president of the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses. Peiffer said families often rely on school nurses as the first line of care.

“Parents’ll say, ‘Go see your school nurse, see what she thinks. Do I really need to make a doctor’s appointment?'” she said. “It’s tough for parents these days. You are their first line of support.”