MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WTVF) — New school nurses will be paid less than their predecessors in Rutherford County to hire additional medical professionals, according to the school board.
"Our level of care where we are concerning," said School Board Member Tiffany Johnson.
The state's Basic Education Program funds 1 nurse for every 3,000 students. In Rutherford County, it covers about 14 nurses. To meet the health needs of all the students in the district, local taxpayers cover the additional school nurses on staff.
Board members proposed to change the pay scale for nurses to be able to afford a larger health services staff and not burden the taxpayers.
"They're overworked, they're taking this home, COVID on top of it. This is a bad situation on top of a bad situation if you ask me," said Johnson, who voted in favor of the new rates.
Christiana Elementary nurse Andrea Cain was the only nurse that spoke at the meeting. She called the move ill-timed.
"We work countless hours contact tracing, providing explanation about the ever-changing quarantine and guidelines," said Andrea Cain.
Cain said changing the pay to afford more nurses could bring down the quality of care.
"A child could be discharged today from the hospital and then come back home and to school tomorrow. We have to be able to competently provide the highest level of care and safety for those students," Cain said.
Lowering the salary for new nurses barely passed the school board 4 to 3.
Opponents agreed with the nurse that spoke at the meeting.
"I agree," said School Board Member Lisa Moore. "I think it's an insult that we would devalue, in a time such as this that you guys have just walked through, and the things you have had to do in the wake of this pandemic."
The new salary schedule will apply to all new hires. For an entry-level nurse, the new salary of $40,000 is $1,144 less than last year's starting pay.
The new salaries take effect July 1. All active full and part-time nurses will remain on the grandfathered salary schedule.