Georgia to feds: we’d like $49 million for more school nurses


Medicaid may be under assault in Washington, but Georgia’s top education agency hopes to tap into that federal fund to more than double the state’s number of school nurses.

In support of the Georgia Department of Education, the state Department of Community Health board voted Thursday to approve a nursing services reimbursement program that would draw an estimated $48.6 million in additional federal money, assuming no major changes come to Medicaid.

There were 1,629 nurses and 307 unlicensed health care and clinic workers in Georgia schools last spring. They are the only medical workers some students see, especially in rural areas where hospitals have closed and doctors are scarce. School nurses provide routine and preventive screenings and examinations, diagnostic testing and monitoring and treatment of chronic conditions. That help can be critical to keep students on track in school.

The money is available as a subsidy to schools that already provide such care to students who qualify for Medicaid services, generally those from lower-income households.

“Hopefully, this would expand access to health services for more children across the state,” said Garry McGiboney, an administrator in the office of state Superintendent Richard Woods who worked on the proposal.

This is a matching program for money the state already spends on nurses, about $35 million a year allocated to each school district based on the Quality Basic Education formula. Districts could see more than twice as much in nurse funding if they are willing to abide by the program’s regulatory restrictions and paperwork requirements.

The money is conditioned upon approval by the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The state worked closely with that agency in developing the proposal, so it should come as no surprise to them, said McGiboney, who doesn’t anticipate problems with final approval. “But,” he added, “you never know.”

For whatever reason, more students are coming to school with chronic conditions, like asthma, or undiagnosed problems, such as impaired hearing or vision, that can interfere with learning, said Lisa Morrison, the lead nurse for Glynn County Schools on the Georgia coast. Her district puts a nurse in every school, but many districts cannot afford to do that. She knows of at least one with as few as one nurse for every three schools.

“How do you decide which school to go to first?” asked Morrison, president-elect of the Georgia Association of School Nurses.

Parents, particularly in rural areas without public transit, may not have a way to get their kids to a doctor or the freedom to get away from work when one of the handful of doctors in the area has office hours, she said. By putting more nurses in the schools where students already are, this federal funding could give more children the medical attention they need.

The funding could come early in the fall semester, though the timing is uncertain. The program will go into effect as soon as the federal government approves it.

The money has been on the table for an unspecified period of time. It came to light last spring when the state education department asked the community health agency if it was accessible by the state. A joint effort to get it ensued.

This request for additional Medicaid dollars comes as lawmakers in Washington discuss cutbacks to the program. None of the state officials involved were willing to speculate about how that might affect the additional revenue projection for Georgia.

Another challenge if the money comes through: finding about 2,000 additional nurses, especially in rural areas, where medical personnel, not to mention teachers, are already difficult to recruit. Morrison, the Glynn County nurse, blamed relatively low pay in schools.

“In many school systems there’s a shortage of salaries,” she said.

Morrison said it’s unclear whether this program can change that.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Education

Opinion: Learning suffers when schools become armed camps
Opinion: Learning suffers when schools become armed camps
Jesús Tirado taught high school social studies for nine years before undertaking a doctoral degree in social studies education at the University of Georgia. He is president of the Educational Theory and Practice Graduate Student Organization at UGA. In this essay, Tirado says the push to arm teachers is at odds with their mission to educate...
Georgia school district to allow teachers to carry guns
Georgia school district to allow teachers to carry guns

A school district near Macon is looking to become Georgia’s first one to let some teachers and other personnel bring guns to school. At its April 12 meeting, Laurens County’s school board passed a resolution to “authorize certain personnel to possess or carry weapons on any property or in any building owned or leased by the district...
DeKalb parent arrested after dust-up related to bus driver sickout
DeKalb parent arrested after dust-up related to bus driver sickout

A DeKalb County parent was arrested following a scuffle with administrators at a Lithonia elementary school, related to a bus driver sickout that caused massive delays as some buses showed up late, if at all. Officials said Patrice Fayson Brumfield was charged with disorderly conduct and simple battery. Teachers said Brumfield was upset with the delay...
Suspect arrested after shot fired outside Mays High School 
Suspect arrested after shot fired outside Mays High School 

U.S. Marshals arrested a 19-year-old man after at least one shot was fired earlier this week in the Mays High School parking lot, an incident that put the school on lockdown. The U.S. Marshals Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested Patrick Dominique Williams, 19, in Cobb County on Wednesday, according to the U.S. Marshals office. Williams...
Opinion: Student zeal to read dulled by ‘archaic prose and mind-bending syntax’
Opinion: Student zeal to read dulled by ‘archaic prose and mind-bending syntax’
Frank Hu is a senior and the salutatorian at the Gwinnett School of Mathematics, Science, and Technology. He plans to attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania to study simulational chemistry (chemistry major, computer science minor). An avid reader, Frank makes a case today for allowing students to read books that interest them in class. By...
More Stories