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

E-Cigarette Update

When Illinois PTA first shared information about e-cigarette use among adolescents in 2014, we noted that use had more than doubled from 3.3% to 6.8% from 2011 to 2012. Today, the use of e-cigarettes or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) has risen to nearly 15% in 2018. The growth in the use of ENDS comes at a time when adolescents are smoking traditional tobacco products and using smokeless tobacco at significantly lower rates than in recent years. This growth was one of the contributing factors to Illinois PTA’s adoption of a Resolution on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) at the 2018 Illinois PTA Convention.

One of the reasons for this increase is that ENDS are presented as safer than traditional cigarettes. This is true, but as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes, cigarettes are extraordinarily dangerous products that kill approximately half of the people who use them regularly. And while ENDS are suggested as having a potential benefit for adults looking to quit smoking cigarettes, they are not considered safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.

Another reason for increased use is believed to be Juul, a brand of ENDS that looks similar to a USB flash drive that has so dominated the market that vaping is now often referred to as “Juuling” among youth. The pods used in Juul products have come in “kid-appealing” flavors like candy and fruit in the past, and surveys have shown these flavors are the primary reason for the use of ENDS among youth. As the Food and Drug Administration moved to regulate ENDS use, Juul announced it was suspending in-store sales of such flavors. Education Week created a video aimed at teachers (but also useful for parents) on how to detect Juul use in the classroom.

 

The health concerns with ENDS starts with nicotine, a highly addictive chemical present in most ENDS liquid pods that are inserted into the ENDS and vaporized. Nicotine has been shown to harm adolescent brain development, and its concentration in ENDS pods is often the equivalent to the nicotine in one or two packs of cigarettes. Nicotine in high concentrations is toxic, and as ENDS use has increased, so has the rate of nicotine poisonings in the US, increasing from only 269 in 2011 to 3,137 in 2018.

But nicotine is not the only chemical of concern in the ENDS vapor that is inhaled and exhaled. Youth often cite ENDS as being “safe” and the vapor inhaled as only “water,” but other substances that have been found in ENDS vapor include heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead; ultrafine particles; carcinogens; and flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease. While the number of harmful chemicals in ENDS vapor is fewer than those in cigarette smoke, ENDS are by no means safe for use.

Resources for Families

Photo © 2016 by Mylesclark96under Creative Commons license.

Advocacy Day 2019—A Challenging and Rewarding Day

Illinois PTA hosted is Advocacy Day in Springfield last Wednesday, February 6th. Though the weather did not cooperate, making travel difficult or impossible for some PTA advocates, Illinois PTA was still able to visit with every legislator’s staff and meet with a few legislators as well. A few of our advocates who had ducked in to see the House in session just before lunch ran into our new governor, JB Pritzker! If you couldn’t make it, you can still contact your legislators about our advocacy issues through our latest Call to Action.

Our three primary advocacy topics this Advocacy Day were:

School Funding

Illinois’s new Evidence-Based Funding (EBF) model provides an equitable way of distributing state funding to schools by determining what research and data shows to be the cost of educating a student coupled with a school district’s ability to meet that cost through local property taxes. What that model also shows is that 83% of Illinois school districts are below 90% of their adequate funding level, and that bringing every district to their full adequate level of funding would cost an additional $7.37 billion. While the General Assembly has committed to an additional $350 million per year for ten years, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability estimates that at that rate it will take 31 years to reach full adequate funding. Illinois PTA does not believe that it is in our children’s or our state’s best interest to not fully fund schools until 2050.

Given the financial difficulties faced by the state, one cannot talk about additional spending without being willing to talk about revenue, and that was the other part of Illinois PTA’s focus on school funding during Advocacy Day. We spoke in favor of a constitutional amendment that would allow for a graduated income tax, a position of our legislative platform for years. We also would support a potential increase in taxes on services to bring us in line with our neighboring states. Finally, we spoke in favor of eliminating the scholarship fund inserted into the EBF bill at the last minute that diverts up to $75 million in public funds for private school vouchers with no clear accountability on how those funds are being handled.

Juvenile Justice

In 2017, Illinois PTA released a report on young adults involved in the justice system, and among the recommendations adopted by the convention delegates from that report was advocating for changes in how young adults ages 18 to 24 are handled by the justice system. That report continues to generate national interest, most recently in a new report by the Justice Lab at Columbia University.

Based on our position on this issue, Illinois PTA spoke with legislators in favor of SB 239 and HB 1465, companion bills just introduced prior to Advocacy Day that would raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction for misdemeanors from 18 to 21 through a phased in process. We also supported providing counsel to all alleged juvenile offenders throughout their involvement in the justice system, reducing the disproportionate representation of minorities in the juvenile justice system, and assuring that juvenile court jurisdiction is based on age by eliminating automatic transfers to adult court.

Environmental Resolutions

Shortly after taking office, Governor Pritzker signed an executive order confirming that Illinois will abide by the Paris Accord on Climate Change. Based on our resolution on climate change, Illinois PTA asked legislators to make Governor Pritzker’s decision a reality by enacting legislation that would support renewable energy resources and regulate activities that contribute to the adverse effects of climate change. Illinois PTA also spoke out in favor of regulations that would prevent adverse environmental effects from fracking based on our resolution on hydraulic fracturing.

News from National Convention—Resolutions

At the 2018 National PTA Convention in New Orleans, delegates adopted one new resolution and amended another existing resolution. The first resolution addresses students with disabilities, while the second focuses on mental health programs and services. The links to the resolutions here are to the proposed text and amendments, which were only slightly modified by the convention delegates. The final text of the resolutions will be posted on the National PTA Resolutions pagein the near future.

Resolution on High Expectations for Students with Disabilities

As the new resolution on high expectations for students with disabilitiesnotes, more than half of all students with disabilities spend at least 80% of their school day in general education classes. These students need both quality general education instruction and targeted interventions and accommodations. For students with disabilities, time in general education classes lead to fewer absences, less disruptive behavior, and better outcomes after high school, as well as new learning opportunities for students without disabilities.

Yet for students with disabilities, there continues to be a gap between the achievement of these students and those without disabilities. Research has shown that teacher expectations for students with disabilities, parental expectations for their children’s academic achievement, and students’ own mindsets all play key roles in their success.

The resolution directs National PTA and all PTAs under it (including local PTAs) to:

  • Collaborate with school communities to include students with disabilities and their families in all school activities.
  • Support peer mentoring, collaborative problem solving, cooperative working groups, and more casual or unstructured interactions between student with disabilities and those without disabilities.
  • Include a relevant general educator present at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings.
  • Support funding for teacher professional development regarding adapting instruction to meet the needs of students with disabilities, accommodations that improve access to the general curriculum, and high expectations for all students regarding both academics and behavior.
  • Support implementation of best practices to meet the needs of diverse students, including Universal Design for Learning (UDL), inclusion, Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS), and Response to Intervention (RTI).
  • Support students with disabilities access to accommodations, including assistive technology.

Amended Resolution on Children’s Emotional Health and Mental Health Awareness

The convention delegates amended the 1969 resolution on Children’s Emotional Health to address mental health issues as well. The amended resolution notes that mental health issues in children have increased in recent years, with 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 living with a mental health condition. Furthermore, 79% of students ages 6 to 17 with mental health disorders do not receive mental health care. The average delay between the onset of symptoms and the beginning of treatment for these children is 8 to 10 years.

The amended resolution calls on National PTA and its constituent associations to:

  • Support efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health providers that offer preventative and treatment services to children and adults, as well as comprehensive school mental health programs that include adequate access to school psychologies, school counselors, and school social workers.
  • Advocate for teacher and administrator training to improve the understanding of child emotional and mental health needs, with an emphasis on the importance of establishing a school climate conducive to good mental health.
  • Promote education programs for parents and families to strengthen understanding and supportive home environments.
  • Support efforts to provide education and other supports for school staff and professional development to assist with addressing and early detection of mental health issues.