Help Protect PE in CO: Join the Statewide Listening Tour for New Federal Education Law

In six Colorado cities throughout May—plus an online webinar session on June 1—the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) is conducting a statewide listening tour to gather feedback from the public on how our state should carry out the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a new federal education law passed by Congress in December 2015.

CDE is hosting this statewide conversation to learn about regional and local needs, challenges, and priorities. These listening sessions provide the opportunity to share:

  • The current status and need for increased PE funding in your community.
  • Equity and disparity issues in your community—Is there a difference between quantity and quality of PE between schools? Are underserved communities disproportionately affected by high child obesity rates, as well as the capacity to offer and maintain quality PE programming?
  • How would PE funding and the inclusion of PE as a component of a well-rounded education make a positive impact on the health and academic achievement of youth in your community?

BACKGROUND

What is ESSA?

In December of 2015, President Obama signed into law the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The title of the reauthorized legislation, which replaces the No Child Left Behind Act, is the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Why is there a statewide listening tour?

Feedback from the ESSA listening sessions will be compiled and used to inform the state’s plan. The goal is to develop a Colorado ESSA plan that is clearly understood and widely supported. Ultimately, a plan approved by the Colorado State Board of Education will be presented to the U.S. Department of Education.

What will be the focus of the listening tour?

The listening sessions will most likely discuss a wide range of education policy topics, such as standards, assessments, teacher requirements, teacher and principal evaluation, and consolidation of programs. Although school-based health and wellness topics are not the sole focus of the sessions, there should be opportunities to discuss the importance of funding for physical education and health.

How Can ESSA Impact School Health & Wellness?

School health and physical education were included in the definition of a student’s “well-rounded education” within ESSA. Receiving this designation in ESSA allows school health and physical education significant access to funding, something that was limited under No Child Left Behind. Subjects included in a well-rounded education are allowable uses of Title I and Title II funds by states and school districts. School heath, physical education and physical activity programs will also have access to funding under Title IV of ESSA.  Federal funds for PE were previously granted directly to school districts through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP), a competitive grant program.

Under ESSA, block grants will be distributed to states under the Safe & Healthy Students program within Title IV. School districts receiving $30,000 or more must use 20 percent of their grant for activities to support a well-rounded education, and another 20 percent for activities to support safe and healthy students. School districts will have the opportunity to apply for funding for a wide range of safety, health, and school-climate programs. Because physical education and health are just two examples of many potentially fundable areas, the listening sessions are an important opportunity to share the need for prioritization of these subjects within Title IV funding. Funding for school physical education and health programs are not guaranteed without strong state and local support.

IMPORTANT POINTS TO CONSIDER

Physical education is critical for the health and well-being of our children.

  • About one third of children and teens – more than 23 million kids – are overweight or obese. [1] More than 10 percent of Colorado children are obese, with more than a quarter being overweight.
  • Colorado ranks 24th in the amount of physical activity our kids engage in compared to their peers in other states.
  • An increasing number of school-age children are developing cardiovascular risk factors and Type 2 diabetes, conditions that may be addressed in part by increased physical activity during the school day.[2]
  • An hour or more of moderate or vigorous activity each day is recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services.[3]

Physical education is closely linked to academic success.

  • A growing body of evidence suggests a relationship between vigorous and moderate-intensity physical activity and the structure and functioning of the brain.
  • Children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.[4]

Colorado should prioritize using federal education dollars to invest in PE programs.

  • Our state is one of only four states in the country without a requirement for physical education for any grade level, even though Colorado prides itself on the healthy and active lifestyles of those who live here.
  • The block grants distributed to states through Title IV should be spent on programs and activities that support a healthy and active lifestyle.
  • These federal dollars are critical for Colorado, because state funds are not provided for PE.

MORE INFORMATION

For more information about ESSA and how to register for a listening tour event, please visit https://www.cde.state.co.us/fedprograms/essa.

The ESSA listening tour is an opportunity to champion the inclusion and prioritization of physical education in the state’s implementation plan. If you attend a session, LiveWell Colorado would love to learn more about the experience and potential advocacy opportunities that may have arisen in the conversations. Please email us at advocacy@livewellcolorado.org if you’re interested in connecting with us. Thank you for using your voice to elevate the importance of physical activity in schools.

 


Notes:

[1] Active Living Research. Active Education: Physical Education, Physical Activity and Academic Performance. Research Brief, Summer 2009.
[2] The Colorado Health Foundation. The 2015 Colorado Health Report Card. 2015.
[3] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. 2008.
[4] Institute of Medicine. Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School. May 2013.