A new Mississippi law expands the duties
of 51 school nurses, who were once paid for through the now-defunct
Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi.
The law also placed all school nurses under the Mississippi
Department of Education, rather than the Department of Health.
The Partnership went out of business this year. Its operations
had been curtailed after a chancery judge ruled the $20 million
diverted to its anti-smoking programs from the tobacco settlement
money was illegal. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the ruling
The new job duties for the nurses include identifying safety and
health concerns that can be fixed in schools, supporting healthy
food services programs and helping introduce students to health
"I don't really know if that's more duties, but it's more
function," said Lea Ann McElroy, director of the bureau of health
services at the Mississippi Department of Education.
"I think you'll see better comprehensive health care for the
kids," said Celia Roberts, school nurse for Lafayette Middle
School in Oxford.
In addition to the 51 state-funded "tobacco nurses," there are
an estimated 340-350 more nurses who are funded with federal or
local money. That means their responsibilities vary, too. Another
part of the law aims to develop more uniform job criteria for
Donna Hill, the school nurse for Coffeeville Elementary/High
School, said she and the other state-funded school nurses have
probably all done more than just prevention education. She's
looking forward to finding out more from a training session by the
Education Department on Aug. 1.
"We're just hoping that change is good," Hill said.
During the 2007 regular legislative session, the department
requested $7.5 million to fund the 51 existing state nurses plus
100 more. Legislators allocated $2.55 million - only enough to pay
the current 51 nurses. McElroy said the department most likely will
ask for $7.5 million again in 2008, trying to get enough money to
fund more nurses.
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger,