Federal Funding for Education Programs At Risk in Fiscal Year 2018

Education advocates work hard to increase funding for federal education programs to ensure all children receive a quality education. During tough political climates and hard economic times, these education advocates have always been able to at least maintain the current level of funding for education programs at 2% of the federal budget.

However, much of our progress to increase investments in education—or at a minimum maintain current levels of funding for education—have been put at-risk due to the release of President Trump’s “skinny budget” or “blueprint” for funding priorities in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. President Trump’s proposal would cut funding for public education programs by $9.2 billion.

From the information that is available in the skinny budget, National PTA has concerns about the following proposals:

  • An overall $9.2 billion cut to program under the U.S. Department of Education (13% cut)
  • New $250 million investment to expand private school choice options
  • Eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers—also known as afterschool programs
  • Eliminate Title II state grants to support effective instruction for teachers, principals and other school leaders
  • Eliminate or reduce over 20 programs at the U.S. Department of Education (the full list of programs is not available)

National PTA hopes President Trump’s full budget request (to be released in May) will propose funding for Statewide Family Engagement Centers, Title I, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act state grants, Parent Training and Information Centers and Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.

It’s important to note that the President’s budget request is simply that—a “request” outlining the President’s funding priorities. It is Congress that determines how much funding each federal agency and program will receive each year.

Members of Congress take the President’s budget request into consideration when they are making funding decisions, but constituent requests for certain programs to receive funding almost always take precedent in appropriations bills.

Here are two steps for PTA advocates to take to ensure that Congress adequately invests in public education programs:

  1. Take Action and send a letter to your members of Congress requesting for them to invest in public education and Statewide Family Engagement Centers.
  1. Sign up for National PTA’s Takes Action Newsletter and get the latest information on PTA’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and ways you can get involved.

While National PTA is disappointed that the budget proposal cuts vital funding for public education overall, the association is pleased to see the president maintain funding of $13 billion for special education grants through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

President Trump’s blue print proposes to designate an additional $1 billion for Title I—which aids schools with high percentages of children from low-income families. However, it is still unclear as to how the proposed increase in Title I funding would be used as the skinny budget mentions that the increase in Title I funding would be used to encourage Title I portability, which National PTA would not support.

As PTA advocates, we encourage you and all parents and families to call, meet and email your member of Congress and request them to support robust investments in public education and Statewide Family Engagement Centers and oppose funding for any private school choice or voucher system that would divert funding from public schools.

Joshua Westfall is the Government Affairs Manager at National PTA.

4 Ways to Engage in Your Child’s Education

This piece was originally featured in Mediaplanet.

Over 40 years of research shows that regardless of a family’s income or socioeconomic background, students whose families are engaged attend school more regularly earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs and have higher graduation rates.

Here are four ways you can help your child reach their full potential:

1. Talk about school matters at home

Encourage your child to talk about their day and express any concerns. It will help you understand your child’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what activities they like and don’t like. Two-way communication is essential to developing an active and positive relationship and an open, ongoing dialogue is critical to keep your child safe, happy and learning.

2. Be a partner in your child’s learning

Every child’s education experience is unique, and ensuring it remains a positive one is a shared responsibility between families and educators. It is important to develop a relationship with your child’s teacher, keep the lines of communication open and work together to support your child.

3. Advocate for your child  

You are your child’s best advocate. It is important to speak up for your own child — and every child in your school community — to ensure they are treated fairly and have access to opportunities that will enable them to reach their full potential. Use your voice 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.

4. Join up with your PTA

Get involved with your local parent teacher association. Families are busier than ever and as an on-the-go parent, you will find support from others in PTA who share your 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 — including yours — receive a high-quality education.

The work your family does at home to support and reinforce what your kids are doing in school will have a significant academic impact. Don’t strive for perfection — remember that involvement looks different for every family — and any level of involvement in your child’s education will help ensure they have every opportunity for success.

Laura Bay is president of National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA), a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement.

5 Simple Tips for Engaging Your Family in Reading

This piece was originally featured in Mediaplanet

Reading and literacy skills are critical to children’s academic, social and emotional achievement. Families play an essential role in helping children develop their literacy skills and fostering a love of reading.

Research shows that when families read together, children do better in school and beyond. Reading with children provides an opportunity to expose them to more complex words and stories than they would normally encounter on their own. Research also demonstrates that children who frequently read with their families tend to have a strong belief that reading is both important and enjoyable.

Here are five tips for family reading:

1. Establish a reading area in your home 

Designating a special space in your home where you read together can help inspire your family to sit down and get lost in books. Creating a reading space with children is also a great way to enjoy quality time together.

2. Spend 30 minutes each day reading together

Even if your child is more interested in reading on their own, sit together and read something side-by-side. Then, ask questions about what they are reading.

3. Make it fun

Reading shouldn’t be a chore; it should be an adventure. If your attitude reflects the joy you feel from getting lost in a book, it’s easier for your children to feel that way too.

4. Look for interesting, reading level-appropriate books

For young readers, find books with illustrations or photos that bring words to life and provide context clues for new vocabulary. For adolescents, find books about subjects that interest your child or introduce new experiences or opportunities.

5. Books make great holiday presents

Giving books as gifts, especially on topics children love, will help encourage and support their interest in reading.

During the holidays and all year-round, it is so important to share the joy and importance of reading with children while making family memories.

Laura Bay is president of National Parent Teacher Association (National PTA), a nonprofit association dedicated to promoting children’s health, well-being and educational success through family and community involvement.

For more tips on how to how to grow children who love to read, or how to host a PTA Family Reading Experience, visit: www.PTA.org/Reading.

Kilgour Elementary: Healthy Food Zone

“Healthy Hands.” Students creating permanent art installations for the cafeteria makeover

Change can be challenging to initiate, especially when you are just one elementary school in a public-school district with over 60 schools. It’s easy to feel too small.

But thanks to our Healthy School Meals grant, Kilgour Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio was given an opportunity to stand out and help make change happen. Not only have we been able to take steps to improve the perception of our school meals, we have also been able to create partnerships and momentum to improve our school’s wellness culture.

To help create a positive, healthy-lifestyle atmosphere, this year our school’s cafeteria will host six student-created permanent art installations, as well as a large scale “Farm to School” mural, illustrated by two talented collaborators—a Kilgour parent and school art teacher.

Ever wonder if Kindergartners know how to make a salad? Ours do! Thanks to our “Free Salad Bar Friday’s” every student and staff member can visit the school’s salad bar on Friday and create their very own green masterpiece. Every week over 100 students participate in the free salad bar—students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience school meals.

Kindergarten students enjoying “Free Salad Bar Friday’s.”

Growing a positive partnership with our school district’s Food Service Administrative team has given us many opportunities, like bringing in extra salad dressing for students and trying new food items like sweet potato sticks before other schools. Our partnership also has led us to the donation of a Tower Garden growing system to our school, which gives students firsthand experience in growing their own food and creating meals and snacks from the harvest.

Our partnerships have also blossomed in Kilgour Strong Cooking Classes. Local top chefs, in partnership with local distributors, have volunteered their time to help promote school meals. Students in grades 4-6 will be given an opportunity to participate in four free cooking classes, during which they will create a meal served in our school’s cafeteria. These students will be empowered to recreate these meals at home, plus learn why the ingredients are smart choices.

Being one school out of 25 schools awarded the National PTA School Meals Grant reminds us that no matter how small we may feel, we are powerful, we can create change and that we certainly can stand out.

 

Lauren Boehm is a proud mom of a second and third grader, and co-chair of Kilgour Elementary School’s Wellness Committee.

Empowering Students to Make Healthy Meal Choices in School

March is National Nutrition Month and one of my jobs as a parent is to make sure my children are eating healthy, nutritious foods. However, I have to hope that they are making those same healthy choices in my absence while they are at school. The school week leaves a lot of time for friends to offer unhealthy snacks that they’ve brought from home and for one too many cupcakes during birthday celebrations in class.

So, how do we teach our children to choose healthy food alternatives?

As a PTA president for the last four years, I’ve spent a lot of time in our school and began to see the positive impact being made on healthy initiatives for students. I knew that I wanted to be more involved in this effort, so when our PTA had the opportunity to apply for a Healthy Meals Grant we jumped at the chance…and were selected!

Our goal for the year is to increase breakfast and lunch participation by 10%, which sounds great on paper but where do you start? The answer: Empowerment. We start by partnering with the school and meal services provider to help show children what it means to eat healthy by putting the right choices in their hands.

Make them aware
I know that I’ve had those mornings of waking up late and rushing around, hurrying my children to the bus stop with a Pop-Tart.  We asked ourselves: Do students and parents even know that breakfast is available at school? Colorful signs that depicted healthy options were put up at the parent drop off loop to inform families about school breakfast.

Make it fun
During our Fall Festival Celebration we had an apple tasting contest.  It was our chance to highlight the health benefits of apples while having a fun learning experience. Students were given samples of three types of apples: Gala, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Student were then asked to choose which apple they liked best by placing representative felt apple on the board.  The apple tasting continued in the lunchroom for the younger grades with Golden Delicious edging out the others by a slim margin!

Give them the tools
We are fortunate to have a schoolyard garden.  Classes are held outside in warmer weather and students of all grade levels are an integral part of planting, harvesting and eventually eating what grows in the garden.  In September, our PTA planted various types of lettuce with the plan to have a “Top Chef Jr.” type of salad making competition using other fruits & vegetables of the season.  The winning salad would be featured on the school menu for that month.  We even used the lettuce for salads at our December ACE & PTA Family Night “Meatballs & Math.”

Empower them
What better way to highlight our school’s breakfast and lunch options than to have students share updates with each other. Each morning the Mullica Morning Howl – student led video announcements – were shown to the entire student body at Mullica Township School. During this time, students were able to speak about what breakfast and lunch options were available each day.

Jessica Carroll is a parent of two boys and PTA president of Mullica Township School in Elwood, New Jersey. 

Unite for a Better Internet: Have the Smart Talk

Navigating life online

(Sponsored Post) My boys are nine and eleven-years-old. This means that we’ve had “the talk” — yes, that one about the “birds and the bees.” But in our fast-moving, digital world, where children are engaging more and more on social media, playing online games and reading news online, we need to have a different kind of talk — one that teaches them the rules of the road for navigating life online.

According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 50% of children receive their first smartphone by age 11, and 74% have access to laptops and desktops as early as six-years-old. There’s no doubt technology is playing a huge role in our children’s development. It just doesn’t make sense to ignore this enormous part of their lives. Having open and ongoing conversations about online safety and responsibility is essential to the well-being and overall safety of children.

However, when I chat with other parents about having a digital safety talk with our kids, I get the sense they find it overwhelming because they don’t know what topics to cover. And that’s understandable. How can we possibly know how to approach talking about everything our kids see online when we didn’t grow up with the same devices, sites and apps they use today? Not to mention the fact that parents often tell me that they also feel pressured to buy their kids new devices that their peers and classmates are using, regardless of whether or not their kids are ready for that kind of responsibility.

Fortunately, there’s a free, online tool to help families navigate these issues and talk about digital safety. It’s called The Smart Talk. National PTA and LifeLock developed it for families who want their digitally savvy kids to learn and have fun through technology, but also make sure that they are building positive habits to stay safe and be responsible online. The Smart Talk gives families an opportunity to talk about the issues that can come up as kids use smartphones, social media and apps — while they’re still developing emotional intelligence skills.

Since the tool is online, you can have The Smart Talk as a family whenever it works best for you. After developing an agreement together, you can print a copy of the agreement, hang it where you’ll see it (like on your fridge) and revisit as needed.

I’ve had The Smart Talk with my each of my boys — and they even enjoyed it (at least more than they enjoyed having that other talk)!  We plan on regularly checking in on our digital safety agreements. When that happens, I’m sure they’ll teach me a new thing or two, and we’ll have to evolve our agreements accordingly.

Join me in partnering up with your kids as we try to make the internet better and safer — have The Smart Talk tonight.

Kim Allman is the Vice President of Government Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility at Lifelock.