For immediate release: Thursday, April 10, 2014
Bill to increase funds for schools to hire more school nurses, mental health
professionals, and librarians
Sacramento – Today at the Sacramento Central Library, Assembly Health Chair Dr. Richard Pan and the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) launched an ambitious legislative initiative for K-12 schools called “Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds.” AB 1955 will provide funding for nurses, mental health professionals, librarians, and will extend library hours in schools to provide much
needed student-support services. Representatives from these occupations came from across California to offer their observations at a press conference in the library.
AB 1955 establishes a demonstration program for school districts with over 55 percent of unduplicated high-need students to apply for adjustment to base revenue towards increased library hours and other uses, and maximizes Local Educational Agency billing to Medi-Cal to pay for school nurses and mental health professionals, and help defray the cost of case management with county health services.
“As a former First 5 Commissioner and medical consultant to the Sacramento City Unified School District, I know how important school based health and learning services are to the success of our students,” said Dr. Richard Pan, author of AB 1955.
“Many of our schools do not have full time nurses and mental health professionals, and our school libraries are not open and available for use,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “Maybe these are not issues for some communities, but for the vast majority of California’s students and parents these are serious and sometimes life threatening issues. Our public education system must be about more than test scores and exams.”
Diane Garcia, a school nurse with the Oxnard High School District, said, "While the recommended ratio of nurse to students with complex medical needs is 1:125, I also serve the comprehensive school with 2,200 general and special education students, and I travel to a continuation school 2-3 times a month. I have these multiple duties because two nursing positions have been eliminated in my district. This bill can provide critical support for the hundreds of kids in my district with health needs and emotional challenges."
Maria Ruiz, Los Angeles Unified School District parent, stated her support for AB 1955. “I have two children in the Los Angeles Unified School District. I am concerned that in my children’s schools we do not have a psychologist, a nurse, or a librarian available everyday. We live in a poor community lacking these essential resources.”
“I have witnessed, first-hand, some of the barriers and challenges that our students encounter on a daily basis at school. It is imperative that students receive comprehensive services to address mental health issues in the school environment,” said Pajaro Valley Unified School District mental health counselor JoAnn Borbolla. “There are several benefits to providing students and families with culturally competent mental health services, particularly in underserved communities of lower socio-economic status, including higher academic achievement, lower absenteeism and fewer behavioral problems.”
“For too long we have been marching backwards in terms of the broad education we offer to our children. Libraries are the beating heart of any school, as a center for research and for the growth of the imagination,” said Amielle Zebach, a library media technician with the Berkeley Unified School District. “In a world that will only increase its complexity, let us strengthen that heartbeat so that we can move forward again.”
BY THE NUMBERS AT CALIFORNIA SCHOOLS:
2,815 students per school nurse
1,469 students per school psychologist
8,310 students per school librarian
14,772 students per school social worker
For more information on “Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds”: www.cft.org.