Jennifer Miller, 608-266-1683
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS), today announced $8.3 million in funding to support K-12 school health service staff in schools throughout the state. This first-of-its-kind funding will support hiring and retention for school nurses and health staff in K-12 schools and provide funding for school nurses to pursue wellness activities and professional development. In partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), 12 regional Wisconsin Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs) will distribute funds to schools. This funding will improve children’s health by supporting the school health workforce. Funds can be used to hire new nurses and health coordinators, retain those staff through retention bonuses, and extend the hours of existing health staff. This funding will also provide nurses wellness and professional development opportunities. Pipelines to support the education of future school nurses has also been made possible through this funding and in partnership with University of Wisconsin—Madison, School of Nursing.
“What’s best for our kids is what’s best for our state, and that means making sure our kids have the support they need to be their best selves both in and out of the classroom,” said Gov. Evers. “School nurses and health staff play an essential role in our kids’ well-being, and these funds will go a long way in helping hire new staff to fill these critical positions and ensuring existing staff have the tools and resources to support our kids when they need our help the most.”
“Over the last two years, Wisconsin’s school nurses have shouldered a major physical and emotional toll due to the COVID-19 pandemic while providing critical services to Wisconsin children,” said State Health Officer Paula Tran. “This funding acknowledges the need to support school health staff and will strengthen the school nurse workforce by boosting retention efforts through competitive salaries and hiring.”
Funding for this initiative comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and aims to support state and local public health infrastructure. The money was allocated using CDC health equity indicators as well as analysis of the number of school nurses and students by district, the number of students with disabilities, and students who are economically disadvantaged. This allocation method recognizes the time and resources school nurses need to address the needs of students and alleviate health and socio-economic barriers students may be experiencing.
The health and well-being of Wisconsin’s K-12 students is supported and achieved through a healthy and present school health workforce. These funds enable school nurses to begin and maintain their physical and mental wellness through offerings such as gym memberships, yoga classes, and national and state park passes. Continuing education and professional development opportunities such as specialized training in hearing and vision screening will keep Wisconsin school nurses engaged with the latest guidance on childhood conditions.
Additionally, scholarships totaling $174,000 have been allocated to establish a pipeline for Wisconsin’s future school nurses. The scholarships will fund school nursing certificates and public health nursing courses through the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing. The certificate program accommodates online and in-person attendance and aims to attract current nurses and students interested in becoming a school nurse by removing financial barriers for the required public health training.
“We know students need to be healthy and safe to learn, which is why school nurses, who provide the link between health and learning, work to support the physical and mental health and educational success of students,” said DPI School Nursing and Health Services Consultant Louise Wilson. “DPI is committed to both educational and health equity, and we are proud to be a part of this effort to increase access to school nursing services across Wisconsin.”
To support student health, DHS has also provided more than $2.6 billion in extra food benefits and $2.9 billion in regular FoodShare benefits to families, children, and older adults who needed extra support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Extra food benefits were provided through the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) Program and through emergency allotments issued under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, referred to as FoodShare in Wisconsin. These programs, which are federally funded, provide foundational supports to families in need and help the state’s economy thrive. DHS partnered with DPI to help schools submit information for hundreds of thousands of families in need of food security across the state.
View the list of schools who received funding to support school health service staff.