On Wednesday, the 2nd of March, Speak Out! Day brought together over 200 Physical Education and Health leaders from 46 states and gave the physical education profession the opportunity to meet face to face with elected representatives on Capitol Hill.
I’ve been coming to Speak Out! Day for years to lend my voice for the important issues that impact our profession. This year, as the President of North Dakota SHAPE, it was important for me to represent our state and be part of this important advocacy, especially in the first year of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Eight years after the No Child Left Behind Act was supposed to expire, Congress finally passed a bill to replace it. ESSA gives states more flexibility and latitude in deciding how to close achievement gaps. The legislation also includes a sizeable state block-grant program in which PE will play a big part. Our collective goal was to urge Congress to fully fund ESSA in FY2017 and specifically to fund Title IV, Part A of ESSA at the authorized level of $1.65 billion. This will allow health and PE programs to have access to significant funding. Under Title IV, block grants will be distributed to states.
Here’s a recap on the two days in Washington and what’s ahead for Physical Education and Health:
PEP Grant Is Alive in 2016! While Title IV funding will be replacing the Carol White Physical Education Program (PEP) grant and consolidating it with much other education grant programs, we learned Wednesday that the PEP grant will be funded one last time this year….and soon! We were told funding allocation will total $20 million and districts can apply for grants up to $500,000. All funding will be distributed in FY2016, rather than over three years. It’s estimated that the grant application and submission process will open in mid-March and close in mid-April, so start planning now to submit your PEP grant and let us know if we can help in your grant writing process.
Technology Will Play a Big Part in Title IV Grants Funding for PE: ESSA’s Title IV block grants will also be heavily intended for technology. It also opens the door to new state testing systems. The bottom line is our words and shouting to the rooftops about the importance of PE and health just don’t carry the weight anymore. Without integrating technology into our PE programs and measuring our effectiveness, it will be very difficult to justifying additional funding for our profession and the expansion of PE programs. If we don’t have data to show why we need PE and health in our schools or why we deserve funding for our PE programs, Title IV funding will go to other 16 programs identified as “Well Rounded” subjects. “We need to find tools out there that will allow us to collect not only math and reading scores but have the ability to correlate those scores with fitness scores and MVPA time spend, This data will give us what we need to help our parents, administration and state leaders see the need for physical education and recess time in order to improve academic scores, Teacher need to be able to build personalized student learning profiles that not only answer the call to “Show me the data!” but make every student matter, every single day.
SHAPE America and State Associations Have a Great Opportunity to Unite Us: New this year, SHAPE America hosted a Shape of the Nation Summit on Tuesday as part of the two-day event. It was an awesome day that highlighted state PE policy opportunities and offered a preview of the highly anticipated 2016 Shape of the Nation Report. The soon-to-be-published report gives a snapshot of PE and physical activity policies across the country. The Title IV block grants will be distributed to states under the Safe and Healthy Students program. School districts and schools will apply to their state department of education for funding for a wide range of safety, health and school climate programs, to include health education and physical education. SHAPE America and State Associations have a great opportunity to unite us all by working with each state’s Department of Ed representatives, lobbying for and applying for funding. If the state associations don’t go in and fight for that money, it will go elsewhere. A statewide data collection initiative is needed to help build a clearinghouse of data.
The Key to Speak Out! Day is to make it Every Day: It’s been crucial to be here this week and we all feel it was an incredibly successful 2 days, but our work collectively is just beginning. It takes time and a united force to make real change happen and we need everyone to get involved. Continue to talk daily to your peers and districts about ESSA money, write letters, tweet @SHAPEAmerica and take 5 minutes to call or write your state and even federal representatives and let them know how important ESSA funding is for PE and Health. As a profession, we have so much opportunity ahead of us, and it is up to us to make PE and Health all it needs to be for our children.
Lois M. Mauch, M.S. Ed
President of North Dakota SHAPE