What This Means: Secretary King Stresses the Necessity of Diversity at #PTAcon16

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In a keynote address at the Think BIG… Think PTA! National PTA 2016 Annual Conference, attended by over 1,000 PTA members and advocates, U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King voiced the importance of having diverse schools and classrooms. He urged PTA members to “demand diversity—not just in schools but also in the classrooms within those schools,” and added that “diversity is not a nicety but a necessity. Not just for some students, but for all of our students.”

Research shows that diversity of teachers and students results in better academic and life outcomes for all students. Nearly half of today’s public school students identify as non-white, but only 18% of the teaching force identifies this way, resulting in students rarely identifying culturally and racially with their educators.

Congress is taking steps to address the lack of diversity in schools. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) will soon be introducing legislation which would offer grants to help districts create and implement strong voluntary, community-developed plans to increase socioeconomic diversity in their schools while improving student achievement.

­Congress cannot tackle this issue alone. Secretary King stressed that PTAs across the country have a unique opportunity to increase diversity within schools. He pressed PTA members to find out if there is a formal outreach effort in place and if not to “start it and lead it.” He went further by stating “if your school is diverse but its PTA doesn’t reflect that diversity, take the time to get to know parents from different backgrounds. Invite them to join you.”

National PTA has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion. To further this effort, we recently updated the Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit to help PTA leaders make their PTA more welcoming and inclusive for all children and families by honoring their differences. Be sure to download it for in-depth guidance, but in the meantime, here are a few ways to embrace diversity and multiculturalism in your school community:

  • Make the connection with your community and identify different audiences such as community colleges, hospitals, parks, libraries, etc.
  • Distribute information to staff and families about community resources that serve the cultural, recreational, academic, health, social and other needs of families.
  • Foster student participation in community service and involve community members in school volunteer programs.
  • Disseminate information to the community, including those without school age children, regarding school programs and performance.
  • Collaborate with community agencies to provide family support services and adult learning opportunities, enabling family involvement.

PTA members have an important obligation to ensure that diversity is prioritized in our nation’s schools and to advocate so that every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential. Diverse student bodies and teaching forces allow students to learn how to work productively with people whose life experiences are different from their own.

Find more resources and information about diversity and inclusion on PTA.org.

Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator for National PTA.

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Senate HELP Committee Holds Fourth ESSA Implementation Hearing

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing with Department of Education Secretary John B. King June 29 to discuss recent proposals regarding the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). “We want this law to succeed,” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated at the beginning and the end of the hearing. This was the fourth time that the committee has held a hearing with Secretary King about ESSA implementation.

Senators expressed the concerns that many administrators, school districts and families have about the timeline of the implementation process for states to draft their accountability plans. Current plans require implementation of an accountability system for the 2017-2018 school year and identification of underperforming schools the same year.

In response to the current timeline, Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt stated in a letter to the Department that “no state will be able to implement a new system that takes full advantage of ESSA by the 2016-17 school year as implied by USED staff.”

Secretary King told lawmakers that they “are open to comment on the timeline and open to adjusting that timeline.” Their ultimate goal is to guarantee the easy transition into the new accountability system and setting up every school across the nation for success.

Stakeholder engagement was another major concern several senators wanted to clarify with Secretary King. The provision for family engagement in ESSA is a new and much-needed change from previous education law. King addressed the issue by mentioning the resources made available on stakeholder engagement. For instance, there is the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Stakeholder Engagement Guide, which National PTA and 16 other organizations collaborated on to address the concerns many senators have about how to meaningfully involve stakeholders.

The guide highlights that stakeholder engagement requirements provide an “opportunity for state education agencies (SEAs) to not only connect with current education advocates, but to seek out those who feel disconnected or who have not been historically engaged in a public education dialogue.”

Ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard in the development of the law and its implementation helps create a plan of action that is holistic and addresses the unique concerns of states and districts. National PTA also has other resources regarding stakeholder engagement, all of which can be found at PTA.org/ESSA.

As Chairman Alexander said in his opening and closing remarks, the purpose of these hearings is the same sentiment that the National PTA has expressed since ESSA passed: ensuring the law succeeds. As Secretary King said, ESSA’s goal is to provide a “rich, rigorous and well-rounded education.” Senator Murray added that the law is designed to provide “civil rights and opportunity for every child.”

To ensure a rich, rigorous and well-rounded education, it is up to parents and families to get involved with the process. Many states are currently holding working groups and stakeholder engagement meetings. National PTA strongly urges parents to attend these meetings and voice their opinions and concerns. The best way for children to benefit academically is for parents, educators and policymakers to work together. To learn how you can be engaged in the implementation process, visit PTA.org/ESSA.


 

Blake Altman is the government affairs intern for National PTA. Lindsay Kubatzky, the government affairs coordinator at National PTA contributed to this article.

New Civil Rights Data Collection Survey Highlights Need for Improvement

CDRCThe U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently released the results of the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) survey. This report features information about how students are treated at school and highlights several key issues that affect a child’s ability to learn, such as chronic absenteeism, restraint and seclusion disciplinary actions and lack of access to college resources. These three topics are important when advocating to ensure that all children receive a high-quality education.

Here are some key findings from the CRDC survey report and what National PTA is currently doing to tackle these issues:

Chronic Absenteeism Plagues Our Children’s Academic Participation

The CRDC survey reports that 18% of students are chronically absent—missing at least 10% of school days in a school year—which is likely to hurt their academic success and social development. National PTA recognizes that millions of students are missing too many school days and so signed on to a letter to the U.S. Department of Education in support of their Every Student, Every Day initiative, which addresses this issue that is threatening our children’s learning opportunities. National PTA continues to work with communities across the country to make sure our children attend school regularly.

Disproportional Instances of Restraint and Seclusion 

Restraint and seclusion is a school discipline strategy involving the involuntary confinement or physical restraint of students. The 2013-2014 CRDC data shows that this disciplinary policy disproportionally impacts students with disabilities. Students with disabilities make up 12% of all public school students but account for 67% of students subjected to restraint or seclusion. The use of inappropriate restraint and seclusion methods by untrained school personnel has resulted in the assault, injury, trauma and in some cases death, of students.

At the 2015 National PTA Annual Convention & Expo, PTA members passed a resolution to limit restraint and seclusion policies in schools. In the resolution, the National PTA calls for restraint and seclusion to only be used as a last resort in emergency situations, ensuring the safety and protection of all children.

Minority Groups Are Offered Fewer College Preparation Programs

According to the CRDC report, African American and Latino students have less access to high-level math and science courses in their schools. In schools with high enrollment of African American and Latino children, only 33% offer Calculus, compared to 56% of high schools with mainly white student populations.

National PTA recognizes the importance of offering advanced courses at schools in preparation for college and the skilled labor force. Our association continues to advocate for increasing the federal investment in education to ensure a well-rounded education for all our nation’s children. National PTA launched its STEM education and family engagement initiative in fall 2015 in collaboration with founding and presenting sponsor Bayer USA Foundation with additional support from Mathnasium to magnify the importance that a well-rounded education has on our children’s educational opportunities and future success.

So, what can you do to address these issues as a PTA advocate? The first way you can help is to identify specific issues that your school faces. School data on these issues from previous years can be found at this webpage, with updated info from the current CRDC report available in August. Once identified, you and your PTA can work with the school administration to ensure all students are treated fairly and receive a high-quality education.

You can also make a difference if you:

  • Ask your school’s principal if they have a school counselor and work with him or her to ensure all students have access to counseling. Chronic absenteeism can be addressed by giving students access to a school counselor or a mentor to confide in to get to the root of the issue. Lack of access is a serious issue—over 1.6 million students attend a school where a sworn law enforcement officer is present but not a school counselor. On top of this, about 21% of schools nationwide don’t have access to any school counselors.
  • Work with the local school board to create policies and programs that emphasize the use of positive or non-aversive student behavior interventions, thereby limiting the use of restraint and seclusion on students. In addition, you can advocate for your school district to provide adequate training for all teachers, principals and school personnel on preventative interventions and alternatives to exclusionary discipline.
  •  Get involved with the local or state PTA and help districts and states draft their new education plans. College and career preparation is a focus for the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Learn more about the law and how to get involved at PTA.org/ESSA.

Blake Altman is the government affairs intern at National PTA.

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Summer Tips for Incoming PTA Leaders

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Summer vacation is here! While these months can be filled with road trips to the beach, summer camps, long nights and lots of “R&R” time—summer is also an opportunity to plan a smooth transition into the upcoming school year. Just as teachers must plan the next school year’s curriculum, PTA leaders have an assignment of their own, too.

At the end of their term, outgoing leaders transfer their procedures books to the incoming leaders. Even if an outgoing leader thinks the information is of no value, with these books you will have a better idea of what was done in the past and how the PTA went about doing it. Outgoing leaders can also offer valuable insight on things yet to be done, what they would do better and suggestions on how to be more effective and efficient in the performance of your new duties. Take notes and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Start planning now for your own smooth transition into office. Here are a few tips for incoming local leaders to consider:

Share contact information with outgoing leaders and set up a directory to be and remain connected. With previous leaders’ contact information, you’ll be able to reach out for additional support throughout the year or to ask for insight as problems arise.

Review procedures books given to you from outgoing leaders. If there are none, do not worry; start one by getting and reading your local unit bylaws. The PTA unit’s secretary should have a copy. If you can’t find it, call your state/congress office; they’ll be happy to mail or email you one.

Visit PTAKit.org and review the sections that may apply to your new position.  If you don’t see your position listed, the information this website contains is of value to the entire PTA board.  Even if you’re an experienced PTA leader, it is worth reviewing every year as it is updated with the most current information and trends to help you and your unit to be successful.

Check out your state PTA’s website.  They may have information that can start you off on the right foot for the year. For example, templates, training opportunities, resources, program materials, newsletters, etc. You might find ways to connect with your state through Facebook, Instagram, Legislative Alerts, Twitter, etc.

Take advantage of the e-learning courses. National PTA offers online training courses to help you grow as a leader at PTA.org/eLearning. Although you may want to start with what you’ll need for your own PTA position, please take all courses. As a board member, it’s important to know the role of each position and what to expect.

Meet with your school principal to learn about school goals and objectives for the incoming year. Share with the principal the programs the PTA would like to hold (Reflections, Family Reading Experience Powered by Kindle, Healthy Lifestyles, Fire Up Your Feet, Take Your Family to School Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, Connect for Respect, etc.) and how these programs will support the goals and objectives of the school. Think about becoming a School of Excellence in the process!

Set up a communications plan. Newsletters and social media keep everyone informed, engaged and proud of what the PTA is doing. Go through your PTA’s goals, identify specific strategies your PTA or committee will use to achieve each goal and then create a step-by-step plan for each strategy. This is key to growing membership and gaining members and community support.

Have a successful PTA year and thank you so much for your dedication and commitment to the mission of PTA!


Ivelisse Castro is a national service representative at National PTA.

 

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Child Nutrition Bill to be Debated in House Education Committee

It’s just common sense: healthy students make better learners, and school meals are an opportunity for children to receive more than half of their daily nutrient needs. Ensuring children have access to nutritious foods in schools is critical to their success.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a markup of the House’s child nutrition reauthorization bill, titled the Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016 (H.R. 5003), at 11 a.m. on May 18.

National PTA and many school nutrition advocates are concerned with the House bill in its current form as some of the provisions are expected to roll back years of progress toward healthy and nutritious school meals. The following are just a few of the provisions in the House bill that would negatively impact your child’s access to healthy foods in schools.

The House bill would roll back nutrition standards at your school

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA) was passed by federal lawmakers in 2010 to improve the nutritional value of all foods and beverages sold in schools. HHFKA requires a school lunch to include a fruit or a vegetable, whole-grains and low-fat dairy products. It also sets limits on calories, fats, sodium and sugar content. To date, the United States Department of Agriculture has reported that 98.5% of schools are successfully meeting the updated nutrition standards. National PTA has helped further these efforts in schools through our Healthy Lifestyles program and Healthy School Meals Grants. However, the House bill would roll back these efforts by allowing popular foods in certain regions of the U.S. (such as biscuits, grits, white rice and others) to be exempt from the whole grain requirements as well as delaying the implementation of sodium reduction targets in school meals.

The House bill would allow school fundraisers to be less healthy

National PTA has also been working with schools to implement healthy and nutritious fundraisers that adhere to the Smart Snack guidelines that went into effect in 2014. PTAs across the country have been working hard to improve school meals and other food items sold during the school day. Thus, PTA cannot support the House bill’s language that would exempt school fundraisers from the Smart Snack guidelines when countless schools have proven to hold successful fundraisers that are healthy and nutritious, such as selling healthy snacks at school stores and school-wide run-a-thons.

The House bill would restrict access to school meals in low-income neighborhoods

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) was included in HHFKA to allow schools and districts with high poverty rates to provide free breakfast and lunch to all students who attend that school or district. This has reduced the administrative burden on schools and the stigma children and families face while participating in the free and reduced-price school meals program. The House bill would hinder access for 7,000 schools and millions of children from receiving healthy school meals by increasing the eligibility requirements to participate in the program. Find out if your child’s school would be effected by this provision by visiting this searchable database.

The House bill would limit the number of times your school can contact families and encourage them to participate in the school meals program to only twice per school year

This provision in the bill is of great concern to PTA as one of our founding principles is our dedication to engaging families in their child’s education, which research has shown improves student outcomes. Limiting the amount of communication a school may have with families on any issue is detrimental to the school environment and student learning. Parents and families have a right to know what school-based opportunities are provided to their child throughout the year, which includes the health and nutrition of their child.

Sign-up to receive our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for updates on the bill and information on other National PTA legislative priorities.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

PTA’s Advocacy Efforts Ramp Up After 2016 LegCon

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More than 200 PTA members nationwide attended National PTA’s 2016 Legislative Conference (LegCon) to hone their advocacy skills and learn new ways to strengthen their PTA voice. During workshops and panel discussions, PTA leaders heard from experts about best practices to expand their grassroots network of PTA advocates, build relationships with policymakers and how to amplify their message through social media.

On the last day of LegCon, PTA advocates met with their elected officials on Capitol Hill to discuss key issues affecting children and families, including obtaining funding for Statewide Family Engagement Centers (SFECs) in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). PTA members’ dedicated advocacy efforts and collective voice resulted in 38 Representatives and 22 Senators signing on to a Dear Colleague letter in support of funding SFECs.

The bipartisan, bicameral support for the Dear Colleague letter is a great example of the power of our PTA advocacy efforts. That success is just the beginning of what the PTA can achieve when our 4 million members advocate for “Every Child with One Voice.”

To push back against the expected budget cuts to federal education programs, it is imperative for PTA members to continue to be engaged with Congress in 2016. The LegCon workshops and trainings have been uploaded to the LegCon website and can be utilized year-round to expand PTA members’ advocacy efforts at all levels of government.

The key to effective advocacy is building relationships with your Members of Congress and their office staff. Below are a few relationship building strategies that you can do throughout the year to develop a rapport with your Congressional offices:

  • Send letters to your member of Congress through National PTA’s Takes Action Center
  • Call your member of Congress’ office to discuss issues affecting children and families in your district and state
  • Meet with your member of Congress and their staff in the district office
  • Invite your member of Congress to visit your school and/or attend a PTA meeting
  • Engage with your member of Congress on social media

By developing a strong line of communication with your members of Congress and their staff, our association will be able to meet our policy goals that will help to improve the lives of children and families across the country.

Sign-up to receive our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for updates on National PTA legislative priorities.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.

 

 

Sign the Testing Bill of Rights!

TestBetter-Promo1National PTA is pleased to join forces with the Center for American Progress (CAP), America Achieves and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), among others in support of the Testing Bill of Rights to ensure assessments are fair, reliable, relevant and aligned to high-quality standards.

The Testing Bill of Rights outlines the need to accurately measure student learning in a way that is useful for parents and teachers and less burdensome for students. As states continue to transition to higher standards and a new generation of high-quality tests come to fruition, more needs to be done at state and local levels to address over testing and provide greater transparency about the purpose and benefits of each test. No parent wants their child reduced to a test score, and assessment results should be used to inform instruction, provide parents and communities with information about whether students are working at grade level or are struggling, and allow teachers to diagnose and help their students. The launch of the Testing Bill of Rights is part of a campaign led by CAP to educate school leaders, students, teachers, and parents about the need for better, fairer and fewer tests.

National PTA understands the frustration that parents, students and educators have expressed regarding over testing. However, instead of walking away from assessments themselves, National PTA seeks to empower and engage parents in the important conversations around the amount and types of tests students take as well as advocate for parents to be at the table as these discussions occur at state and local levels. Parents are an important part of the solution to improve assessments, and we can’t walk away from this responsibility.

The association believes that in order to provide the most accurate information to parents, educators, schools, districts and states all students must participate in required state assessments. The information gathered from assessments helps to make sure all students and schools are receiving the necessary resources and supports in order to reach their full potential. Additionally, if we do not have full data sets, we won’t know if the assessments actually do what they are designed or purported to do.

National PTA has always believed that educational improvements and increased well-being for our nation’s children comes from engaged and empowered parents and families. The parent voice is critical in the discussion around educational equity. Parents must be part of the solution for fairer, better and fewer tests.

National PTA urges you to sign the Testing Bill of Rights to ensure students are taking high-quality and aligned assessments, parents have accurate information on their child’s progress and achievement and teachers have a tool that helps improve instruction.


Jacki Ball is the director of government affairs at National PTA.

4 Ways to Get Involved in Your Children’s Education

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This blog was originally posted on TODAY Parenting Team.

Every parent wants the best for their child and wants to be engaged in their education to support their learning and achievement.

The challenge for many parents, however, is figuring out what they can do and knowing the most effective ways to get involved.

As the president of National PTA, I have spoken to many parents who have asked, “How can I be involved in my child’s school and learning when I work a full-time job and keep a busy schedule to support my family?” As a working parent, I had the same question and concern when my children entered school.

After first getting involved, I quickly realized the importance to help my children—and all children—succeed and reach their full potential—no matter the level of involvement.

It is important to remember that involvement is different for every family and is not limited to attending meetings or participating at school.

Here are some ways to get involved:

Join PTA
Get involved with your local parent teacher association. Even if you are an on-the-go mom or dad, you will find support from other parents in PTA who have the same questions, concerns, hopes and dreams for their children. You will also be part of a dedicated network of families, educators, businesses and community leaders who are working to ensure all children receive a high-quality education. That means, even if you aren’t able to be at every meeting, you know there is a group of parents who are invested in the success of every child at your school — including yours.

Talk about school matters at home
Be interested and listen to your child. Encourage your child to talk about his/her day and express concerns. Learn about your child’sstrengths and weaknesses and what activities he/she likes and doesn’t like. Two-way communication is essential to developing an active and positive relationship and an open, ongoing dialogue is critical. Then if any issues come up at school, your child will feel more comfortable talking to you about it.

Be a partner in your child’s learning
Education is individual for each child and remains a shared responsibility. It is important to work with your child’s teacher to best support him or her. It is also essential to develop a relationship with your child’s teacher and keep in touch with him/her often. Find out the best way to contact your child’s teacher and ask for times when it would be convenient for him or her to talk. It is also important to provide teachers with the best way to contact you. Consistent communication (via email, phone, etc.) will help build relationships.

Advocate for your child
You are your child’s best advocate. It is important to be a voice for your own and every child to ensure they are treated fairly and have access to opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential. It is also critical to advocate with local school boards and state and federal government to ensure your child’s school has the resources to provide a world class education to every student. When possible, attend school board meetings. Send e-mails and letters and make phone calls to advocate with elected officials.

The most significant type of engagement is what families do at home. Parents can monitor and support their child with his/her schoolwork and let his/her teacher or school know if there are any problems. The work families do at home that’s connected to what kids are doing in school has the biggest academic impact.

By monitoring, supporting and advocating, parents can be engaged in ways that ensure that their child has every opportunity for success.

I’m Opting Out of Opt-Out

This blog post was originally published on the Huffington Post.

With the arrival of spring comes assessment season for students, families and educators across the country. When my girls were in grade school, I remember dedicating time to helping them be confident and ready to take state tests. I also remember some feelings of anxiety before the tests, but at the same time, the importance of the assessments in helping my children’s teachers and school better support their success through data-driven planning and decision-making.

During testing season last year, reports emerged that a large number of students were opted out of state assessments. While polls have indicated a majority of parents do not support the concept of opt-out, the movement has vocal supporters and it is expected that even more attention will be paid to student participation in assessments.

Understandably, many parents and educators have concerns about the over emphasis on testing and the impact it is having on teaching and learning. Speaking up and taking action is a critical step to improve the overall education system and ensure every child has the opportunity to reach his/her full potential. However, National PTA does not believe that full scale assessment opt-out is an effective strategy to address the frustration over testing or that opting-out helps to improve a given assessment instrument. Mass opt-out comes at a real cost to the goals of educational equity and individual student achievement while leaving the question of assessment quality unanswered.

The consequences of non-participation in state assessments can have detrimental impacts on students and schools. Non-participation can result in a loss of funding, diminished resources and decreased interventions for students. Such ramifications would impact minorities and students with special needs disparately, thereby widening the achievement gap.

For example, states like New York that did not meet the participation requirement last school year received a letter stating that funding–including for English language learners, students with disabilities and other students in need–could be at risk if they have less than 95% participation on exams this spring. Opting out also stalls innovation by inhibiting effective monitoring and improvement of programs, exams and instructional strategies, and could thwart transparency by providing incomplete data for states, districts and schools.

Recognizing the concerns parents and educators have about testing, and the importance of improving assessment systems, National PTA’s Board of Directors recently adopted a position statement on assessment. The statement acknowledges the importance of eliminating unnecessary and low-quality assessments while protecting the vital role that good assessments play in measuring student progress so parents and educators have the best information to support teaching and learning, improve outcomes and ensure equity for all children.

While some will solely focus on the statement’s opposition to opt-out policies, when read in its entirety, the statement provides a holistic approach to improving assessment systems. National PTA advocates for improved assessment systems by recommending that states and districts: (1) ensure appropriate development; (2) guarantee reliability and implementation of high quality assessments; (3) clearly articulate to parents the assessment and accountability system in place at their child’s school and (4) bring schools and families together to use the data to support student growth and learning.

National PTA strongly advocates for and continues to support increased inclusion of the parent voice in educational decision making at all levels. Parents and families must be at the table when policymakers are considering policies that affect students. National PTA believes in the power of parents making their voices heard and being a part of the solution through engagement. As vice president of advocacy for the association, I have witnessed the ability of families and schools to come together and make true, meaningful improvement through robust dialogue, deliberate investment and thoughtful consensus.

Now is the time for all of us to work together to ensure assessments are executed properly and provide valuable information to parents, teachers and school leaders about the growth and achievement of students as they are intended to do. We must be effective stewards of education for our nation’s children by improving assessment systems, not opting children out of the system that should be for their benefit.


 

Shannon Sevier is vice president of advocacy for National PTA, the nation’s oldest and largest child advocacy association dedicated to ensuring all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Sevier is a proud mother of two high school students and a college student.

Senate Agriculture Committee Moves Forward on Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act

Last month, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry unanimously passed bipartisan legislation—Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act of 2016—to reauthorize the Child Nutrition Act/Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act for five years.

The bipartisan reauthorization in the Senate comes after years of debate on how to move forward with school nutrition standards—even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in October that 97% of schools were successfully meeting updated nutrition standards.

As part of the bipartisan compromise, the bill would keep the current fruits and vegetables requirement intact—that all students must have at least a half cup of fruits and vegetables with every federally funded school meal. However, grain and sodium requirements are expected to change through USDA’s rulemaking process (instead of the legislative process) before the next school year.

The new regulations for rulemaking would consist of delaying target 2 sodium restrictions in schools from school year (SY) 2017-2018 to 2019-2020 and lowering whole grain-rich requirements from 100% of grains served in schools to 80%. Although National PTA is not in favor of these changes, our association is still in support of the overall bill.

The bipartisan compromise preserves the progress made on school nutrition standards as well as school breakfast and lunch programs while keeping the child nutrition reauthorization process moving forward.

The bill also contains many key elements of the School Food Modernizations Act (S. 540)—that National PTA supported. The reauthorization bill would establish loan assistance and grant programs to help school districts upgrade their food service facilities and assist with staff training opportunities.

The Senate child nutrition reauthorization bill would also require studies on the effects of serving children healthy and nutritious meals at school, which include research and reviews of:

  • Nutrition education best practices
  • State training and technical assistance for schools to serve healthy school meals
  • Effects of selling varieties of milk on milk consumption at school
  • Target sodium requirements for schools and the effect on childrens’ health and school nutrition programs

The Improving Child Nutrition Integrity and Access Act is expected to move to the Senate floor for consideration in the coming months. The House Education and the Workforce Committee has not released their reauthorization of the child nutrition act yet and the possibility of the House taking up the Senate bill is still unclear.

Sign-up to receive our PTA Takes Action e-newsletter and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for updates on the bill and information on other National PTA legislative priorities.


Joshua Westfall is the government affairs manager at National PTA.