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Councilmen seek more private school nurses

He joined Councilmen Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) and Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) during a town hall meeting in which they blasted the Bloomberg administration for "shortchanging" private school children two years ago by sharply reducing the number of nurses in their schools.

The so-called "equity" formula aimed to balance the number of nurses at public and private schools by mandating that all schools have one nurse per 775 students.

Before the change, non-public schools had more nurses. Because they are generally smaller than public schools, now they have less, said Michael Pizzingrillo, associate superintendent for Program Management for Catholic Schools of Brooklyn and Queens.

"We get them rarely. We get them sporadically," Pizzingrillo said. "We don't know when they're coming."

The proposed bill, which the Council should vote on in September, would provide a nurse for every school that has at least 200 students. It would also require an additional nurse for every school with more than 750 students.

During a Council Health Committee hearing June 2, city health officials said the bill would require hiring 1,000 more nurses, doubling the current $60 million cost of nursing services.

It would be money well spent, Miller said.

"It's simply unconscionable to make parents in hundreds of schools worry that their children might not get treatment for potentially fatal illnesses like an asthma attack because they don't have access to a school nurse," the speaker said.

Vallone and Gioia agreed.

Vallone said non-public schools were being unjustly punished at the expense of the innocent.

"The administration took nurses away from our most precious, our most vulnerable part of our population: our children," Vallone said.

Gioia likened the "equity" formula to the plot of a popular science fiction story in which a totalitarian regime forced equality on the masses by demanding that the beautiful wear masks and the strong weigh themselves down with ballast. The administration, he said, has metaphorically done the same thing to non-public schools by forcing them to have the same number of nurses as public schools.

"Who would ever think to do something like that in the real world?" he asked. "Who would think to do that in New York City?"

Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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