News from National Convention—The Opioid Epidemic

One of the workshops at the 2019 National PTA Convention focused on the Opioid Epidemic. Misuse of prescription pain medication is one of the fastest growing health issues in the United States today, and the problem is on the rise at an alarming rate not just among the general population but among youth as well. National PTA has partnered with the AMA Allianceto provide resources for state and local PTAs to spread awareness of this issue among parents.

Every year, there are approximately 50 million surgeries in the United States, 2.5 million of which result in the prescribing of opiate pain medications. In many cases, these prescriptions are for 30 days, even though patients may only need the opiate pain medication for the first few days. The result is a significant number of unused opiates available in homes across the country. 53% of those who abuse prescription opioids get their supply from a family member, and approximately 440,000 people become addicted to opioids each year.

National PTA’s partnership with the AMA Alliance is creating a toolkit of resources for state and local PTAs on the issue. Currently, the toolkit consists of a 12-minute recorded webinarand a co-branded fact sheet. Coming soon to the toolkit on National PTA’s websiteare:

  • Door hangers for an awareness campaign
  • A presentation packet that will include both the recorded webinar mentioned above and the slideshow itself so PTAs can deliver the presentation instead of the recording if they wish to do so
  • Handouts to go along with the presentation/webinar
  • A 5-question survey for presenters to fill out on how a presentation went so National PTA and the AMA Alliance can track how the toolkit is being used

Additional resources on the topic can be found at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)website.

News from National Convention—Resolutions

At the 2019 National PTA Convention last week in Columbus, OH, delegates adopted one new resolution and amended two other existing resolutions. The first, dealing with financial literacy, came from Illinois PTA. The other two dealt with energy drinks and lead. The financial literacy and lead resolutions both had minor amendments approved by the delegates, and the amended language is included below. The links to the resolutions in this post are to the proposed language, and the amended language should be up on theNational PTA resolutions pagein the next few weeks.

Resolution on Financial Literacy

This resolution is an updated version of the resolution passed at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention. Financial literacy remains a critically underdeveloped skill for our children, and this resolution broadens the reach of the original Illinois PTA resolution to a national scope. The amendment from the delegates added that PTAs advocate for inclusion of financial literacy in state standards as well as in curriculum. The resolved clauses as adopted by the convention delegates are:

  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations encourage dissemination of information, and training opportunities to families and students in financial planning and budget balancing techniques to foster financial literacy
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations advocate to address the need for financial literacy education and share concerns regarding financial literacy education provisions with appropriate decision-makers at the federal, state and local levels
  • That the National PTA encourage its constituent associations to advocate at the state and local levels for financial literacy to be included in standards and curriculum
  • That the National PTA work with the Financial Literacy and Education Commission and the United States Department of Education to ensure that all students are provided financial literacy education

Resolution on Dangers of Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Adopted at the 2009 National PTA Convention, the original resolution addressed only alcoholic energy drinks. The amendments adopted at this year’s convention expand that coverage to non-alcoholic energy drinks, as the high levels of caffeine and other stimulants in non-alcoholic energy drinks have also resulted in the deaths of children. This amendment also brings the National PTA resolution in line with the 2013 Illinois PTA Resolution on Energy Drinksby adding a resolved clause that supports a ban on selling all kinds of energy drinks at K-12 schools. The amended and new resolved clauses are:

  • That National PTA and its constituent associations educate parents, students, administrators, teachers and community members about the dangers of consuming alcoholic and non-alcoholic energy drinks
  • That National PTA and its constituent associations seek legislation requiring that alcoholic energy drink manufacturers provide prominent alcohol content percentage on the label, as well as health and safety warnings indicating the dangers of combining alcohol with caffeinated beverages
  • That National PTA and its constituent associations urge decision makers to ban the sale of all kinds of energy drinks in all K-12 schools

Resolution on Lead Poisoning Prevention

While the resolution passed at this year’s convention on lead poisoning prevention was presented as an amendment, it is in fact a completely new resolution, since the entire text of the existing resolution was struck, new resolution text was inserted, and the title was amended to add “Prevention.” The original language passed at the 1976 National PTA Convention focused on increasing awareness of lead poisoning and supporting the recently passed legislation that eliminated lead from gasoline and limited its use in other products.

Today, the effects of lead poisoning are well known and the dangers for our children stem from lead sources that were not addressed in the previous federal legislation. These sources, such as lead pipes and solder that leach lead into drinking water are now among the most common ways that children are exposed lead. Concern over lead in school drinking water resulted in the passage of SB550 in 2017 here in Illinois. The National PTA Convention delegates amended the third resolved clause to include advocacy for lead testing as well as remediation. The resolved clauses as amended are:

  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations support the removal of all sources of lead from use, including its complete removal of lead from all paints, building materials, and consumer products
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations encourage the safe and responsible removal of lead from existing uses, including lead in paints, plumbing, and in other building materials
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations advocate for lead testing and the remediation of lead contaminated soils and water
  • That the National PTA and its constituent associations promote advocacy around policy changes to prevent lead poisoning

How School Districts are Using Their New Funding

Illinois enacted a new school funding formulain August 2017. Known as the Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model, it calculates what adequate funding for a district would be and directs the majority of additional state funds to those districts furthest from adequacy. The legislature has committed to providing an additional $350 million per year for the next ten years. The first year of additional funding began last year, and last month the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA) has released a special issue of their newsletter focused on how 50 districts from across the state are spending this new funding.

The report features stories from districts large and small located all over the state. The diversity of the districts still share one common theme—the additional funding has been a “godsend.” For too many years, Illinois has underfunded its schools (and continues to do so even with the EBF model), resulting in districts relying on property taxes to try and fill the gaps where they can, but in many cases having to cut funding for critical programs. With new funds coming to districts for the past two years, here’s a sampling of what’s been happening:

  • Adding reading supports in elementary schools in East Moline SD #37
  • Reducing the size of elementary classrooms, adding instructional coaches, and taking steps to address the teacher shortage in Galesburg CUSD #205
  • Maintaining class sizes, updating instructional materials, and providing additional mental health resources for students in Belleville TWP HSD #201
  • Addressing the social-emotional needs of students, especially those of at-risk students, in Quincy SD #172
  • Creating “innovation zones” at the elementary level in collaboration with its teachers to improve student achievement and lengthen the elementary day by 45 minutes in Rockford Public Schools #205
  • Hiring full-time art and music teachers and creating three STEM labs with smart boards, a 3-D printer, robotics, and computers for students to learn coding in Chicago Ridge SC #127.5

There are many more stories in the reportshowing how the new funding is making a difference for the students of Illinois. If the General Assembly stays committed to its promise to increase funding by $350 million years, all Illinois school districts will not reach 90% of their adequate funding level for another 30 years. It is essential that PTA advocates continue to ask legislators to increase the growth in education funding to bring our schools to adequate funding faster.

School Wellness Policies—Is Your PTA at the Table?

Do you know if your school district has a school wellness policy, and if so, what’s in it and what the district is doing to implement it? If your district participates in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, they are required to develop such a plan and to permit parents to participate in its development. They are also required to update and inform parents about its content and implementation. There are many resources to help your PTA get involved in your school’s wellness policy, and this year’s Illinois PTA Convention will also feature a workshop on how parents can change a school’s health culture by Action for Healthy Kids.

National PTA spells out how your PTA can be involved and ensure that parents’ rights and the legal requirement to be included are followed. These resources include:

  • A summary of what an effective, comprehensive school wellness policy should include
  • A School Wellness Committee Toolkit from Alliance for a Healthier Generation to help committees convene, plan, and implement their action plans (Note: login required)
  • Model School Wellness Policies from the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity
  • School Health Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • Local School Wellness Policy Outreach Toolkit from the US Department of Agriculture to help communicate school wellness information to families and school staff
  • WellSAT 3.0 from the University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity that measures the quality of written wellness policies.

School wellness is a community issue, and your school district is required to include families in the development and implementation of their policy. Ensure that your PTA has a seat at the table to advocate for your child and the children of your school district.