The school health and physical education community celebrated a huge legislative milestone when Congress passed the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December of 2015. School health and physical education were included in federal education law for the first time, and as a result, schools will have access to significant funding and increased support for health education and physical education programs.

Funding fitness

States and school districts must hear from you as to why they should use some of their funds to support professional development and programmatic costs for health and physical education.”

At a time when one-third of our nation’s children are overweight or obese, educating them in physical competence, health-related fitness and healthful behaviors is critical to their development and long-term success as healthy and productive citizens. Research shows that student health and fitness levels are linked to improved academic performance, cognitive ability and behavior as well as lower rates of absenteeism.  

As states prepare to implement ESSA in the upcoming school year, many — like Kentucky — have been gathering feedback from stakeholders and creating state accountability plans, and school districts are beginning to identify priorities for funding at the school level.

Funding under ESSA is beginning to be distributed to states. But in May, Congress made a drastic change in how much money states and school districts will have to work with when they passed the FY 2017 appropriations legislation. They only allocated $400 million for Title IV, Part A, Student Supports and Academic Enrichment Grants, where school health and physical education are identified as priorities for funding. This is less than 25 percent of the authorized level of $1.65 billion that was proposed in ESSA.

Get engaged  

I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is for us to be engaged now at the federal, state and local level so that we don’t miss our chance to influence the process as ESSA is implemented this school year.

Remember, just because health and physical education are now eligible for federal education funding does not mean that states and school districts must spend their dollars on these subjects. States and school districts must hear from you as to why they should use some of their funds to support professional development and programmatic costs for health and physical education.

What you can do

Here’s what we all need to do to stay involved

  • At the federal level, contact your members of Congress to ask them to fully fund Title IV, Part A for FY 18. The low level of funding appropriated for FY 2017 is just not enough money to make a meaningful impact in schools. In addition, the President is proposing complete elimination of this funding for FY 18.
  • Use SHAPE America’s Backyard Advocacy Toolkit to meet with your members of Congress in your own backyard, when they are in their state and district offices. To learn how to use the toolkit, watch this Backyard Advocacy webinar.
  • Make sure you stay engaged with your state and school district leaders as ESSA is implemented over the next year. Use our State Advocacy Toolkits to access information and resources. If lawmakers and decision-makers at all levels don’t hear from us loud and clear, it is not guaranteed that health and physical education will be a priority or receive funding support.

SHAPE America is here to help you with resources and individual support. Don’t hesitate to share any victories, challenges or questions as you navigate throughout your ESSA advocacy journey. Let’s do this!