By Rob Thompson
The North Carolina General Assembly has just released its plan for school safety funding in the 2018-19 state budget. The legislature will send $10 million to schools in “Personnel Block Grants,” to be used for nurses, social workers, psychologists, or other professionals. It will be up to local districts to allocate that money according to where they have the most need – but the money may not go nearly far enough.
The Legislature’s Program Evaluation Division’s recent report estimated that the actual cost to end the statewide shortage of school nurses is between $45-$79 million dollars annually.
The budget specifies that there could also be $30-$90 million in new Medicaid funding for school health services, including school nurses. However schools cannot actually access those funds unless NC DHHS uses a State Plan Amendment to change its Medicaid requirements for school-based health services. The current level of red-tape prevents schools from receiving Medicaid reimbursement for health services, even when the students are eligible.
With this initial allocation, the state’s budget writers are on the right track, but there is a great deal of ground left to cover to end the school nurse shortage, protecting education dollars and safeguarding students’ physical, mental, and behavioral health.