ESSA Title IV Part A: Important To the Kids of America and to HealthCorps
The recently enacted bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes a flexible block grant program under Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. ESSA largely came about thanks to the efforts of organizations like HealthCorps, dedicated to advocating for the inclusion of health and physical education in federal education law.
HealthCorps participated in a letter appeal to Chairman Blunt and Ranking Member Murray on September 23rd to request that the Committee provide full funding for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG), found in Title IV, Part A of the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act. The following is an excerpt from the letter:
“The SSAEG program, authorized at $1.65 billion for FY17, is the result of Congress’ decision to consolidate more than 20 existing programs, most of which were competitive, into a single formula-funded flexible block grant program that allows districts to choose where best to spend their SSAEG dollar in order to help all students develop the skills essential for learning readiness and academic success. These programs include: safe and healthy students activities, such as providing mental health services to students; increasing student access to STEM, computer science and accelerated learning courses, physical education, art, music, foreign languages and college and career counseling; funds for an effective school library program; and providing students with access to technology and digital materials and educators with technology professional development opportunities.
We make this request because we believe that the Committee’s approved FY17 appropriations level for this program is grossly inadequate. Specifically, the Committee proposes to fund this program at $300 million, which is a fraction of the authorized funding level to which Congress and the President agreed less than one year ago. This would have devastating consequences in all schools districts. For example, Jackson Public Schools in Mississippi, which would receive $1.971 million in FY17 if Title IVA receives the full funding, would only receive $286,000 should the Senate approved figure become law. Similarly, Baltimore City Schools in Maryland faces the prospect of losing $4.245 million from a full Title IVA allocation if this program receives only $300 million in FY17 appropriations.
Beyond the financial challenges of such a low funding level, the amount approved by the Committee for SSAEG will not allow states and districts to make meaningful investments in a range of programs that, when combined, improve conditions for learning and help students receive a well-rounded education. It would force school districts to choose between high-quality programs that positively impact students in different ways – trading off school counseling services for Advanced Placement programs, for instance, thereby jeopardizing the greater flexibility for districts and schools that Congress intended.
Furthermore, funding this program at such a low level would necessitate turning this program into a competitive grant program, circumventing Congress’ plain intent in ESSA. A competitive program would significantly disadvantage smaller, more rural school districts as they often lack the capacity to apply for funding and, even if they do apply, face the prospect of receiving no money at all.
Lastly, underfunding this program in its first year of authorization severely hinders the program from being implemented effectively and sets the program up for steep cuts and lower appropriations in future years.”
On behalf of millions of students, parents and educators, scores of national and regional organizations including: HealthCorps, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, American Library Association, Girl Scouts of the USA, National Association of State Boards of Education, National PTA, SHAPE America, Alliance for Excellence Education, among others, urged for appropriation as close to full funding as possible for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.
Michelle Bouchard, President of HealthCorps, was asked to write some personal comments, given HealthCorps stature and platform. The following is an excerpt from her letter:
“HealthCorps is a 501 (c)(3) that gives teens tools to improve physical and mental health so they can learn to live more productive and happier lives. HealthCorps students exercise more, eat better and practice positive thought.
Founded in 2003 by Dr. Mehmet Oz, HealthCorps’ mission is to unleash the power of America’s youth so they can live productive lives. Its vision is to impact 20% of all high school students nationwide in order to reduce the footprint of obesity on the next generation. Each day, HealthCorps shapes the lives of the current generation of students.
Ironically, HealthCorps was founded to fill a void created by a lack of attention to health and wellness in our nation’s schools.
For nearly a decade, HealthCorps has advocated for the inclusion of health and physical education in federal education law. We witnessed firsthand the effects that a lack of physical education and heath had on our student population – rising rates of obesity, a lack of mental resilience, and an absence of general health knowledge.
We are thrilled that Congress recognized the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind when they chose to elevate health and physical education within ESSA – making both subjects part of a students’ well-rounded education – thus making them allowable uses for Title I and Title II. Additionally, the direct references to health and physical education within Title IV reinforces the important Congress has placed on these subjects AND children’s health.
Given that health and physical education were all but excluded from federal education law for nearly 15 years, we are asking that the Department include in its overall guidance the list of subjects that are now part of the WELL ROUNDED definition, which replaces “core academic subjects.”
In terms of the needs assessment which is required for Title IV Part A, we strongly suggest that schools and districts be encouraged to work with community-based organizations for suggestions and guidance. I also ask that should the Department issue guidance on the needs assessment, that the recommendations retain the flexibility and local control intended by the law.”
Organizations like HealthCorps continue to exist thanks to generous private donations and partnerships; however, funding through government grants is a crucial financial component, necessary to sustain these organizations so they can continue to provide the education and programs necessary to support the health and well-being of students nationwide, particularly those in under-served communities.
ESSA Title IV, Part A authorizes activities in three broad areas:
(1) Providing students with a well-rounded education (e.g. STEM, arts, civics, IB/AP, health and physical education).
2) Supporting safe and healthy students (e.g. school mental health, drug and violence prevention, and training on trauma-informed practices, health and physical education).
3) Supporting the effective use of technology (e.g. professional development, blended learning, and technology devices).
Failure to adequately fund this Act and its provisions would likely undermine the bipartisan Congressional intent in passing the law. Currently, The President’s FY 2017 budget proposal would provide $500 million for the Title IV, Part A flexible block grant, less than one third of the authorized $1.65 billion level.
For further information or questions, please contact Carly Braxton at firstname.lastname@example.org or Karen Johnson at email@example.com.
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