A New Year for Family and School Health


(Sponsored Post) It’s a new year, and for many of us it’s a time to assess our health and resolve to shed a few pounds, add more fruits and vegetables to our diets, get more exercise and generally do what we can to make ourselves and our families healthier.

It’s also a good time to take stock of the health of your child’s school. After all, that’s where they spend most of their time outside of your home—nearly 1,200 hours each year. Start with a simple quiz to see what you know about your child’s school. Does the school:

  • Allow adequate time for kids to have recess?
  • Provide active indoor recess to ensure kids get physical activity during inclement weather?
  • Ask parents to bring healthy snacks instead of sweet treats for birthdays and celebrations?
  • Incorporate active games and non-food rewards as part of classroom celebrations?
  • Provide opportunities for physical activity during the school day, such as brain breaks in the classroom?
  • Adhere to Smart Snacks standards for school meals and foods sold in school?
  • Host healthy fundraisers involving nutritious foods or physical activity?

If you answered “no” or “I don’t know” to any of these questions, don’t despair. Join your school’s or PTA’s wellness team and find out! Then pick an area where you can make a difference. Get inspired by others like Tara Fisher-Munoz, a parent in Austin, Texas who took her passion and expertise in gardening to form the Go Green Team PTA with other volunteers and start the school’s garden program. Or Dana Dougherty, a parent and substitute teacher in Arlington, Virginia, who worked with her PTA to set up the 2FIT2QUIT team, that organized 5Ks and family fitness fairs and secured pedal desks to keep kids active while learning.

These parents started with big ideas but small steps. They and many others will attest that once you get started, it’s hard to stop, because just one program can spur a culture of health at school. By getting involved in school wellness, you can also help reinforce those healthy habits your kids are learning at home – and likely learn something new for a healthier you, too.

Learn more about how to get involved in school health at ActionforHealthyKids.org and celebrate your school’s health and wellness during Every Kid Healthy Week.

Amy Moyer, MPH, RD, is the VP Field Operations with Action for Healthy Kids and mother of two girls.

Action for Healthy Kids is a National PTA sponsor and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA.

Recap: Senate Committee Holds Confirmation Hearing for Next Secretary of Education

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, an education advocate and philanthropist to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. Members from both sides of the aisle had the opportunity to ask Ms. DeVos questions about her positions and plans for the Department of Education (the Department) should she be nominated.

In a statement regarding the announcement of the confirmation hearing, Laura Bay, President of National PTA stated that “we respect the confirmation process and pending her confirmation, we stand ready to work with Ms. DeVos to ensure that the priorities of National PTA are included in the new administration’s education agenda.”

National PTA also joined with other leading organizations to express concerns regarding several previous education positions of Ms. DeVos in letters to the committee on Jan. 9 and 13, 2017.

During the hearing, many Democrats expressed concern about Ms. DeVos’ previous advocacy efforts on behalf of private school vouchers in addition to her lack of formal experience in the public education sector. Republicans, on the other hand, largely praised Ms. DeVos’ work and were encouraged by the potential opportunity of having a representative outside of the traditional public education sphere to bring different ideas to the Department.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Chairman of the HELP Committee is expected to call for a vote on Ms. DeVos’ nomination on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The vote will likely fall along party lines with all Democrats voting against Ms. DeVos’ confirmation and all Republican Senators voting in favor. The vote will ironically coincide a week after National School Choice Week, which now in its seventh year of advocating for education options. National PTA has a longstanding history of opposing any private school choice system—vouchers, tax credits or deductions—that would divert public school resources.

In addition to the diversion of public resources to private schools, National PTA will continue to oppose private school choice systems because many of these programs do not have the same civil rights, protections and services for all students — particularly those with special needs. Furthermore, recent studies confirm that school vouchers do not help students achieve better in school, and in fact, they can lead to lower academic achievement.

Learn more about private school vouchers and follow @NationalPTA on Twitter for federal education updates and advocacy efforts.

Lindsay Kubatzky is the Government Affairs Coordinator for National PTA.

Is Using a Mobile Wallet a Smart Idea for Your Teen?

(Sponsored Post) So, your teen has a new smartphone and, in true teenager fashion, wants to set up a mobile wallet—now! Not so fast. Make sure you know the advantages and disadvantages of Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay or Android Pay.

With the rise in iPhone® usage among teens (69% of American teens use an iPhone*), and smartphones in general, Apple Pay®, Samsung Pay® and Android Pay™ can help them learn to manage the funds they earn. But is it always a good idea to give teens—or even younger children—so much power over their finances?

Before we answer that, let’s consider the qualifications for using a mobile wallet system: 1) a debit or credit card and 2) a compatible smartphone or smartwatch.

Debit card. It’s a common misconception that any of these services must be linked to a credit card—it turns out that a debit card works just as well. If your teen doesn’t have a debit card linked to their personal savings account, look into a Mountain America Teen Savings Account. As the parent, you’ll have the option to add a debit card to the account for your teen.

Smartphone. If your teen already has a compatible device, you’re ready to get started. But if he or she doesn’t—and your teen is interested in the benefits of a mobile wallet—you may encourage your teen to save for one. Learning to set financial goals at this age can be a great way to instill lifelong saving habits.

Why Using a Mobile Wallet Is a Good Idea for Your Teen

Convenience, accessibility and security are what makes mobile wallet systems so appealing. Consider this scenario: Your daughter keeps losing her wallet. Every time she’s about to leave the house, the entire family has to help her search for it. Or she calls from the movies when she realizes she has no way to pay for her ticket.

Sound familiar? Most likely, your daughter always has her phone in tow. In fact, an IDC research report revealed that 79% of smartphone users have their phone on or near them for all but two hours of the waking day.

With fingerprint authentication required to login, mobile wallet systems are secure, convenient and can help your child learn how to manage their money in the way they will likely use it in their financial future—with your supervision, of course.

Things to Consider Before You and Your Teen Decide on a Mobile Wallet System

Turning the reigns of a bank account over to your teen requires a little trust, a little education and a lot of patience! Like anything else, they are going to have to learn how this digital system works. There might be a few hiccups along the way.

If you are concerned that signing up for a mobile wallet system will give your teen too much access, here are a couple of things you can do to minimize any damage they might do.

  1. Start them out with a limited weekly or monthly allowance in the account that is connected to the mobile wallet. That way, if they go through all their allotted money, they won’t be able to access additional money until the account is reloaded.
  2. Get a joint account and set up notifications. Both you and your teen will be notified of each purchase as well as the current balance.

A Chance to Learn and the Right Time to Do It

Youth is all about learning and growing. This may be one of the very best reasons to use a mobile wallet. Built-in security features often make these systems safer than carrying cash. And if your teen overspends, the lesson learned—that they’re accountable for every single dollar—can quickly turn into a lifelong educational opportunity. Most parents will agree that learning this lesson when the teen lives at home and spends money on movie tickets or a pizza, is more beneficial than when the teen moves out and rent is due on an apartment.

Money management is an important skill to master. Setting limits and creating goals are ways parents can work with teens to help them learn the ins and outs of their finances. Using tools like a mobile wallet system can help take the lessons one step further. Talk to your teen and make sure you both understand your decision. And remember that regardless of the method you and your teen decide to use for money management, self-control and long-term planning are always part of the solution.

For more information on mobile wallet systems or other financial questions, contact Mountain America Credit Union.

Bryan Packer is the AVP Public Relations at Mountain America Credit Union.

Mountain America Credit Union is a financial sponsor of National PTA and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.