Prioritizing Health in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act

February 03, 2015

Healthy Schools Campaign lays out our recommendations for ESEA reauthorization.

Two weeks ago, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan laid out his vision for a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) — the cornerstone of federal education law that is currently known as No Child Left Behind. Secretary Duncan’s vision includes strategies to address educational disparities in many ways, from increasing funding to low-income students to increasing funding for Pre-K programs.

We applaud Secretary Duncan’s vision and are encouraged by the seriousness the education community is bringing to this round of ESEA discussions. As these discussions move forward, we urge Secretary Duncan and the education community to not overlook the key role school health can play in addressing educational disparities. We know the health of our nation’s students has a direct impact on academic performance, attendance and the achievement gap. Unless we address the disparities that exist in student health, efforts to close the education achievement gap will continue to be compromised.

To that end, today we are releasing our statement on ESEA reauthorization. We believe reauthorization of ESEA is a critical opportunity to address health and educational gaps in our nation today. But to do so, our leaders must take steps to ensure that the health and wellness of our children are prioritized within education. To that end we believe ESEA must:

  1. Allow education funds to be used to support the conditions of health in schools. For example, the delivery of school health services should be an allowable use of funding for school turnaround efforts. In addition, physical education should be recognized as a core subject eligible for Title 1 funding.
  2. Support the inclusion of health and wellness metrics in education data systems. For example, it is critical for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to provide states with the support and resources necessary to integrate health and wellness into their State Longitudinal Data Systems.
  3. Integrate health and wellness throughout the full breadth of ED’s work by expanding the mandate of the Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS). OSHS can play a critical role in supporting ED’s capacity to effectively collaborate within its own agency on issues related to student health and wellness.

Addressing these priorities will have a significant impact on the nation’s goal of closing the achievement gap and helping ensure that children across the country are able to learn in healthier school environments. We urge Congress to maximize these opportunities through ESEA and support the critical connection between student learning and health.

Please take a moment to read through our full recommendation for ESEA reauthorization. Don’t worry, our recommendations are brief. We welcome feedback and comments, so please let us know your thoughts.