Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities Ahead Under ESSA

By Carly Wright posted 06-20-2017 15:31


It’s been a busy couple of months in the advocacy world since I saw many of you at SPEAK Out! Day in April. As states prepare to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the upcoming school year, many — like Kentucky — have been gathering feedback from stakeholders and creating state accountability plans, and school districts are beginning to identify priorities for funding at the school level. There are also some changes that are bringing about new challenges we must face, as we continue our advocacy efforts to give health and physical education a boost on the list of ESSA priorities.

Funding under ESSA will still be distributed to states in July. 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. Here’s how it would work:

  • If a state chooses to run a competition for Title IV, Part A funding, they must ensure that at least 20% of funds are distributed to districts for safe and healthy students’ programs, 20% for well-rounded programs, and the remaining 60% for any or all three of the program areas (including technology).

  • States can still allocate the funding by formula to school districts but the minimum award per school district is $10,000. If according to the formula, a school district would receive less than $10,000, the allocations for all other school districts are equitably decreased in order to award a minimum of $10,000 to each eligible school district.

  • It is up to the states to create the application for the competition and to create the parameters.

  • School districts can apply for one, two, or all three of the priority areas, and must complete a needs assessment prior to applying to receive funds from the state.

  • Priority must be given to high-need school districts in a manner that ensures geographic diversity among recipients representing rural, suburban and urban areas.

  • School districts will have until September of 2018 to spend the funds.

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I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is for us to be engaged now at the federal, state, and local level, so that we don’t miss our chance to influence the process as ESSA is implemented this school year.

Remember, 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 we all need 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 our Backyard Advocacy Toolkit to meet with your members of Congress back in their state and district offices. For more information on how to use the toolkit, 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!

As always, we’re here to help you with resources and individual support. Don’t hesitate to share any victories, challenges or questions with me as you navigate throughout your ESSA advocacy journey. Let’s do this!

You can reach me at or send me a tweet; @CWrightHPE.

1 comment



06-23-2017 09:17

Thanks Carly!  Just posted this on all of our social media sites!