School nurses kept schools running during the COVID-19 pandemic, but their salaries are “classified,” and they usually aren’t paid as much as teachers. The Tennessee Association of School Nurses is working to change this. The bill they introduced, HB2253/ SB2221, would require school districts to re-classify school nurses and put them on the same pay scale as teachers.
Pros and Cons of HB2253/ SB2221
Unfortunately, administrators have criticized the proposed law because school districts would not receive additional financial support to pay their nurses on the new pay scale. Critics believe the market should dictate how much school nurses get paid instead.
According to school nurses, however, this system is not working. Nurses make $26,886 to $45,011, depending on their experience and the demands of the market, and the base pay for teachers is $41,138 a year – even with zero years of experience.
As members of a classified employee group, nurses are paid using the same, market-based system used for bus drivers, school cafeteria, and janitorial workers. Although each district employee is important, school nurses pay tens of thousands of dollars in educational costs, complete specialized training, and work directly with students – much like teachers.
High Turnover Rates Are Harming Students
School nurses are leaving in droves because “they’re paid atrociously,” and this turnover is harming students, especially those who require immediate care for asthma attacks, allergic reactions, and schoolyard injuries. One nurse suffered burnout and was forced to quit her job after overseeing the care of more than 1,200 students and running the school “clinic” all by herself.
“I just feel like we don’t get paid enough for what we’re required to do and what is expected of us,” she explained to NewsChannel 5.
Worse, most people think school nurses get paid better than teachers, a misconception the nurses themselves find laughable. To make ends meet, many school nurses work another job on the side, particularly during the summer months.
The sad truth is that a school nurse with years of experience could bring home less than $30,000 a year from the school district.
Education Reform in Tennessee
HB2253/ SB2221 seeks to change this, and Gov. Bill Lee’s Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) plan may open the door for additional funding.
As advocates of education reform state:
“I feel like if each district put the child first, which I think is everybody's responsibility, they would realize that providing quality nurses for their students is the best thing to do for them.”
TISA passed the legislature on Thursday, April 28, 2022, and HB2253/ SB2221 is moving through the House and Senate.
School districts could be required to pay nurses more as early as the 2022-2023 school year.
What If My Employer Does Not Adhere to the New Law?
School districts and other employers must follow state and federal employment laws. Should HB2253/ SB2221 become law, school districts will need to pay nurses accordingly.
If your employer breaks the law – now or after new laws are passed – you have the right to pursue legal action. Donati Law, PLLC can help. For the past 35 years, we have exclusively represented hardworking employees and worked hard to make our shared community a better place.
We believe in doing what’s best for our children, as well as the people who take care of them.