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Feature Story

May 2017


Educators Push Legislators to Support Health & Physical Education Programs

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By Deborah L. Vence

Health and physical educators from across the United States headed to Capitol Hill in April to push for full funding to support health and physical education programs in schools and professional development of teachers.

This is in response to threats of cuts to federal funding of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). More than 200 health and physical educators were expected to take part in the SHAPE America—Society of Health and Physical Educators 10th annual member lobby day, SPEAK Out! Day, held April 25 to 26 in Washington, D.C.

When ESSA was passed in 2015, health and physical education were designated as part of a well-rounded education, making the subjects eligible for federal education funding for the first time. Under the program, Title IV, Part A, schools will receive funding to support a well-rounded education, safe and healthy student programs, and effective use of technology. Despite Title IV, Part A, being authorized at $1.65 billion dollars, several proposals in Congress would underfund ESSA significantly, and put health and physical education at risk of being unable to thrive in schools.

Carly Wright, SHAPE America's senior manager of advocacy, stated in an April press release that it is critical to set a strong precedence for funding as ESSA implementation begins in the 2017-2018 school year. "By September, all states will have considered feedback from education stakeholders, including health and physical educators, and will submit their ESSA plans to the U.S. Department of Education and set funding priorities for school districts," Wright said. "We are laser-focused on ensuring that health and physical education are on the top of the priority list."

In addition to promoting full funding for Title IV, Part A, advocates were expected to ask Congress to support funding for Title II, Part A, which supports professional development for all school employees and Title IV, Part B, which supports after-school programs for low-income students.

Health and physical education are the cornerstones of SHAPE America's 50 Million Strong by 2029 commitment to empower all children to lead healthy and active lives. 50 Million Strong is a call to action for all of America's health and physical educators to unite and focus on a common purpose—getting all of the nation's children physically active, enthusiastic and committed to making healthy lifestyle choices.

Currently, about 50 million students are enrolled in America's elementary and secondary schools (grades pre-K to 12). The goal of SHAPE America is to ensure that by the time today's youngest students graduate from high school in 2029, all of America's young people are empowered to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs, according to information from 50million.shapeamerica.org.