SPEAK Out! Day? Are they even having that this year? Aren’t we done now that health education and physical education are a part of every student’s well-rounded education in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? Absolutely not! The inclusion of health and physical education in ESSA is just the beginning of a new avenue in the advocacy process.
Our Call to Action
This SPEAK Out! Day, it is critical that we push for full funding for Title IV, Part A at $1.65 billion as was authorized in ESSA when it passed in 2015. This ESSA block grant can financially support school health and physical education in schools. With the 2017-18 school year being the first time this new grant will be funded and implemented, it is so important that we start off with a strong precedent for the amount of funding for this program.
There have been proposals from Congress and the previous administration that would significantly underfund Title IV, Part A and due to the likelihood of overall federal budget cuts, funding for this grant could be in serious jeopardy. Therefore, our priority ask on SPEAK Out! Day is for all members of Congress to support full funding for Title IV, Part A for FY 2017.
As we did last year, we also need to again thank our legislators for making sure our interests were served in ESSA. However, as the U.S Department of Education (DOE) and each of our states continue to develop procedures to implement the new federal education law, we need to remain engaged in the process by letting our legislators know what is working at home in the states. We must continue to strengthen prior relationships and cultivate new ones with the newly elected officials on Capitol Hill. Without these relationships, health and physical educators may find themselves on the wrong side of legislation — now that a new administration is in place.
Left: Brack Hassell, SHAPE America President, Jackie Lund, U.S. Rep Buddy Carter and I at SPEAK Out! Day 2017
What Will You Get Out of It?
“But what is in it for me?” may be the burning question in your mind. “What can I expect to learn at SHAPE America’s annual advocacy day?” I asked myself that question nearly four years ago before my first trek to Capitol Hill. Four years later, I am still learning valuable lessons with each SPEAK Out! Day I attend. Additionally, I constantly utilize the skills and knowledge learned from SHAPE America’s Senior Manager of Advocacy Carly Wright and SPEAK Out! Day legends like Clayton Ellis (CO), Jamie Sparks (KY) and Roger Jackson (MI).
Attendees learn to navigate the maze of educational lingo related to federal funding that permeates our profession. Additionally, your knowledge of education, the legislative process, and your relationships will be enhanced. This will give you the tools you need to negotiate through the process when you return to your home state. Also, it enables health and physical educators to communicate with local and state legislators with extensive knowledge regarding the ESSA and its intricacies.
Become a Better, Stronger Advocate
SPEAK Out! Day has not only made me a better advocate nationally, but it has also assisted me in my advocacy efforts within my home state of Georgia. Through the lessons learned in Washington D.C., Georgia AHPERD has made tremendous progress in having a strong voice in our DOE, especially in regards to ESSA. We use strategies we learned while on the Hill, such as a social media campaign during our state ESSA feedback sessions. At the conclusion, the DOE was “retweeting” and “reposting” our content related to ESSA.
Attendance by Georgia AHPERD members became so regular that we were able to build relationships with the state superintendent and other important members of the DOE. Due to our involvement, our organization was called upon to present to the DOE regarding the role of health and physical education in educating the whole child. Without the expertise we garnered from attending SPEAK Out! Day, our profession and Georgia students may have been left out of this critical part of the process.
The Day of
Please do not be intimidated by going to Capitol Hill and speaking with your representatives. Carly and the SHAPE America team prepare us for all unforeseen events and potential pitfalls. Appointments are made by staff prior to arrival. Participants are provided with maps, guides, contact numbers and itineraries. In addition, most people are teamed up with at least one person who has attended before, to answer questions and lead the meetings. Solo meetings are rare, so you will not be alone in your advocacy adventure! Another awesome part of the event is the opportunity to work with other passionate professionals from your state and across the nation!
While it is a whirlwind two days of events, without question it has made me a better advocate at the national, state and local levels. I encourage you to join me in Washington D.C. this April to “SPEAK OUT” for health and physical education. We, as a profession, must move forward toward our goal of reaching 50 Million Strong by 2029, empowering all children to lead healthy, active lives through effective health and physical education programs!
Register to join me April 25-26 in Washington, D.C.!
Buddy Carter and I at the GAHPERD Convention