Even before Gov. Scott Walker and the state legislature made massive cuts to education last year, Milwaukee Public Schools students were struggling to receive an adequate level of health and medical care at school.
I started my current job as a school nurse at a MPS high school three years ago, and before that there was no one qualified at the school to respond to medical emergencies, prevent illnesses, recognize health hazards or provide basic medical care to the school’s over 1,600 students.
Now, the governor and legislature have made things significantly worse by eliminating funding for school nurses. This will have a tremendously negative impact on the children of MPS, not only this year, but in the years and decades to come.
Nurses are critical to the successful operation of a school. They help to improve school attendance, and work with students and families to prevent asthma attacks and increase the number of students who are immunized against communicable diseases at a time when whooping cough and mumps have reappeared in our community. They consult closely with teachers to deliver accurate and current health information to students and families.
School nurses are also a part of a school’s academic staff and help to teach classes on health and wellness. They work to reduce childhood obesity and prevent type-2 diabetes.
Students need to be well nourished and active in order to thrive in school, and nurses encourage physical activity, healthy diet and disease prevention habits that last children their entire lives.
I’ve been an RN for over 40 years, but I’ve found that my seven years at MPS has been the most important of my career. Health care is a human right, and it’s a right that has been snatched away from the children of Milwaukee.
As a community, we need to stand up and demand that the state properly fund education so that students receive the care and preventative education that they need to be successful both academically and in life.
This commentary is published on the occasion of MPS Children’s Week. To learn more, visit mpschildrenscampaign.org.