By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The School District of Philadelphia is considering outsourcing its school health services — jobs currently held by unionized school nurses.

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Schools superintendent William Hite says the cash-strapped school district is simply exploring ways to expand student health services without spending more money.

The district has issued a request for proposals (“RFP”) from providers who want to take over medical services in one, some, or all of Philadelphia’s public schools.  Right now, 183 school nurses, represented by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, do those jobs, with many schools sharing nurses.

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“We like our nurses.  We definitely appreciate what they’re doing,” says Karyn Lynch, the school district’s chief of student support services.  “What we’re trying to do is offer more.”

The RFP requires private vendors to offer jobs to current nurses before hiring new staff.   The district currently spends about $24 million a year on school medical services.  Lynch says the RFP is cost-neutral.

In a statement, PFT president Jerry Jordan called the move “shortsighted,” and an “insult,” and said the union would pursue every option to stop what he called the “privatization of our public schools.”

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