Fresno Bee Rallies Support for School Nurses Bill
California has "too few credentialed school nurses for too many students," a Fresno Bee editorial says, stating its support of a new bill pitched in Fresno last Friday that would increase funding for school nurses. Assembly member Dean Florez (D-Shafter), backed by the California School Nurses Organization, introduced AB 163, which seeks to earmark about 20% of the state's $200 million-$250 million share of the national tobacco settlement to "reduce the ratio of school nurses to students from its current 1 to 2,500 to 1 to 600." In Fresno, the nurse to student ratio stands at about 1 to 5,000 -- a ratio that the nurses association says "leaves schools without qualified personnel to dispense medication and attend to students' health needs." Statewide, about 83% of schools have "untrained and unsupervised" staff providing first aid and medication to students, and only 7% of schools maintain full-time credentialed nurses, the editorial says. In addition, 75% of schools have part-time nurses, and 18% do not have school nurses at all. However, the problem "go[es] well beyond the numbers," the editorial states, noting that uninsured children in Fresno County rely on school nurses for many of their primary medical needs. In conclusion, the editorial urges lawmakers to give AB 163 "a better fate" than a similar bill -- (AB 2171), which Florez introduced during the last Assembly session and the Assembly Appropriations Committee eventually stalled (Fresno Bee, 2/5).