Looking for Backyard Advocates

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was passed in December 2015, this was the first time that health and physical education were included in federal education legislation with other academic subjects.

Funding under ESSA will still be distributed to states this month. 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, which is less than 25% of the authorized level of $1.65 billion that was proposed in ESSA. Due to this low level of funding, states are now able to run a competition across school districts for the funds rather than distribute the money by formula to all eligible school districts.

Just because health and physical education are now eligible for federal education funding, it 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. Keep in mind that any programs supported by ESSA funds must show an impact on student achievement, so make sure you make that connection in your messaging.

Here’s what SHAPE America needs everyone to do prior to the next school year:

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 of only $400 million is just not enough money to support all of the program areas under Title IV, Part A. In addition, the President is proposing complete elimination of this funding for FY 18. We need to ensure our voices are heard!

While Congress is on recess this summer, use SHAPE America’s Backyard Advocacy Toolkit to learn everything you need to know about holding a successful meeting at your representatives’ state and district offices  This toolkit provides a step-by-step guide that covers the entire process, from assembling a team of colleagues to following up after your visit. It also provides specific suggestions about connecting personal stories to your message and all the materials you’ll need to bring to your meeting.

To help pull it all together, watch SHAPE America’s on-demand 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!