NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Teachers Are Becoming Nurses

February 15, 2000

With the number of disabled children attending public schools rising, teachers are increasingly being called upon to administer health care to their charges. Their duties can range from administering shots to diabetic children to performing urinary catherizations.

Teachers are understandably afraid that they will hurt a child by doing something incorrectly, then be held personally responsible. But their new role has been forced on them as a result of federal legislation and government regulations.

  • The number of children with disabilities in the nation's public schools has escalated 20 percent in the past decade -- to nearly 11 percent of the 52.7 million students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
  • Parents and others file an estimated 2,500 cases each year with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights -- half of all cases filed with the office -- seeking accommodations for their disabled offspring.
  • Teachers and school administrators are suddenly feeling the full impact of the 1977 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which entitles children with disabilities to a free public education, and Section 504 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against the disabled in any federally-funded program.

What about using school nurses? The problem is they are in short supply and can make more money elsewhere. The ratio of nurses to students in some school districts is below one per 10,000, experts report. Many nurses carry pagers and drive from school to school.

Also, the push to reduce the number of students in classrooms means that available funds must be directed to hiring more teachers -- which means less money is available to hire nurses.

Source: Linda Temple, "Disputed Health Duties Injected into Teaching of Disabled," USA Today, February 15, 2000.


Browse more articles on Education Issues