State budget needs more money for school nursing services, says Catholic conference

In front of the Assembly Budget Committee on March 24 in Trenton, Dr. George Corwell, director of the Office of Education for the New Jersey Catholic Conference, presented testimony arguing for increased Catholic school funding in the 2016 State Budget.

Corwell, with Mary McElroy, director of the New Jersey Network of Catholic School Families for the Archdiocese of Newark, spoke on two school issues for Gov. Chris Christie’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget: nonpublic school nursing services, and nonpublic school technology aid.

While acknowledging that he appreciated the legislature’s increase in nursing services, raising the support limit to $94 per pupil, Dr. Corwell stressed that with an elimination of “legislative add-on,” the net support limit is now only $85 per pupil.

“The school nurse has played a major role as a first responder in a number of key emergencies that have taken place in all schools,” he argued, adding that the $85 is a increase of only $25 from the original figure of $60 for the 1991-92 school year.

“The increase is only $1.04 per pupil per year, hardly enough to keep pace with the costs that are imposed on us by service providers,” he said.

Corwell stressed that nurses are increasingly important in schools.

“Parents of nonpublic school students choose the school their child attends for a variety of reasons,” he said. “Like all parents, they expect that the school nurse will be there for their child’s health needs that arise during the school day. As medical advances continue and children with significant medical conditions are able to attend school with their peers, it is critical that a nurse be present for these students.”

He also noted the rise of several legislative initiatives, such as the Scholastic Student-Athlete Safety Act, and the Cardiac Arrest Legislation, which requires that nonpublic schools have an additional supply of epinephrine for treating students. Replenishing this supply, he said, would require more funding for the nursing services.

Speaking on the Nonpublic School Technology Initiative, Corwell said that for a program that received $40 per student in years past, it is “unfortunate and a disservice to nonpublic school students” that the amount has been reduced to $20 per pupil. He requested that the $40 per student plan be restored.

This funding is used, he said, to help students “use technology in large and small ways to make learning immediate, memorable, and to connect themselves to the wider world around them.”

Mary Boyle, executive director and superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Camden, called Corwell’s comments “a wake-up call to elected officials. Catholic graduates are four times more likely to vote in elections. Most importantly, this is about justice for all children, no matter what school they attend.”

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