Aligning National PTA and Illinois PTA Legislative Priorities: School Meals

As the number of students qualifying for free and reduced school meal programs increases, and the obesity epidemic spirals ever onward, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHKFA) takes on increased interest for PTAs as the act seeks to improve nutritional standards and access to nutritious meals for students.

The National PTA calls for the reauthorized legislation to:

  • Improve and enhance opportunities for parents to participate in the development of local school wellness policies.
  • Maintain, at a minimum, the current school nutrition standards and Smart Snack guidelines.
  • Deliver technical assistance and resources to schools that are not meeting the nutrition standards.
  • Provide federal grants and loan assistance for schools to improve kitchen infrastructure and equipment.
  • Oppose any attempt to “block grant” the school nutrition program, or reduce the number of students eligible to participate in the free and reduced-price school meals program.

Over the past two decades, the Illinois PTA has recognized and responded to the needs of students by adopting positions relating to:

  • Eating disorders and risk of nutritional deficiency as part of the school health curricula (2000).
  • The dissemination of information on the detrimental effects of childhood obesity (2005).
  • Best practices for addressing and treating childhood obesity through local PTA units, councils, districts and regions in cooperation with other like-minded associations and organizations (2005).

We continue to support the National School Lunch Program and the National School Breakfast Program, and Illinois PTA supported the Breakfast After the Bell bill in 2016. Currently, both the National PTA and the Illinois PTA are watching federal legislation (S1064, HR2401) which are designed to remove the stigmatization of students participating in either of the programs mentioned above.

As schools continue to refine developed health and wellness policies, which include nutritional guidelines, the Illinois PTA will continue to call upon school districts to include parents in the decision-making on revisions to health and policies.

Tell Your Legislators to Override the SB1 Veto Today to Keep Our Schools Open

Today, Governor Rauner vetoed part of Senate Bill 1 (SB1), which would have fixed Illinois’s inequitable school funding formula. Key elements of Illinois PTA’s support of SB1 are that no school district receives less funding and that all school districts are treated in the same manner regarding current (but not legacy) pension costs. The governor’s veto breaks both of those requirements, puts education funding at risk, and means that some schools may not be able to open for the start of school or remain open for long.

The governor’s veto ends the district hold harmless provisions in the 2020-2021 school year, removes the minimum funding requirement, continues to treat Chicago Public Schools’ pensions differently than those of every other district, and eliminates the CPS block grant used to pay for special education, English language learners, and other “categorical” spending. The veto also eliminates the inflation indexing of formula values in the bill, meaning that districts will effective see funding cuts over time as inflation reduces the value of that funding.

The governor has called SB1 a “bailout” for Chicago Public Schools. It is not. 268 school districts, over 30%, will receive more funds per student than CPS. Downstate students make up about 34% of all Illinois students, and about 34% of the SB1 funding goes to downstate districts. CPS accounts for 19% of Illinois students, one-third of our low-income students, and receives about 20% of the SB1 funding.

SB1 now goes back to General Assembly for an override vote to restore SB1 to its original language or a concurrence vote to accept the governor’s changes. Either vote requires the support a supermajority (60%) of legislators in both houses. If neither the override or concurrence vote receives that supermajority, the bill is completely vetoed and schools will not receive funding until a new evidence-based funding model is passed by both houses and signed into law.

We have seen the damage done over the past two years without a state budget to our community colleges, our universities, and our social services. Let’s not cut off funding from our schools by playing students from one zip code against another to score political points. Let’s put SB1 into law.

Illinois PTA is issuing a call to action, requesting its members to contact their legislators to override the governor’s veto. Following this link will take you to a prewritten letter that you can edit or send as is to your state representative and state senator. It takes just a couple of minutes. Speak up for your child and every child in Illinois so we can fix our funding formula and keep our schools open.

Protecting Your Kids from the Sun

Summer means spending more time outside, and with that comes an increased risk of sunburns. For children, sunburns significantly increase the risk of melanoma (skin cancer) according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Even one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence can nearly double a person’s chance of developing melanoma.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with 20% of Americans expected to develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Rates of melanoma have doubled since 1982 despite an increased use in sunscreen. The reasons for this increase are numerous, including increased use of tanning beds (especially by adolescent girls) and infrequent or improper use of sunscreen.

Protecting Your Child

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a list of things you can do as a parent to protect your child from the sun.

  1. Seek shade: The ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause sunburns and skin damage are strongest during the middle part of the day, so plan indoor activities during those times if possible. If not, finds some shade under a tree, umbrella, or pop-up tent. These should be used to prevent sunburn, not to seek relief after it’s happened.
  2. Cover up: When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts. Clothes made from tightly-woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet t-shirt offers less protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter ones. Some clothing may have a UV protection factor listed based on international standards.
  3. Get a hat: Hats that shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck are easy to use and offer great protection. Baseball caps are popular, but don’t protect the ears and neck. If your child wears a cap, be sure to apply sunscreen to their ears, neck, and other exposed areas.
  4. Wear sunglasses: While sunglasses don’t protect from sunburn, if they block both UVA and UVB rays, they can protect your child’s eyes from exposure to UV rays. Such exposure can lead to cataracts later in life.
  5. Apply sunscreen: The CDC recommends using a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with at least an SPF 15 rating. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 as a minimum. For best protection, apply sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outside, remembering to protect the ears, nose, lips, and tops of feet. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, especially after your child exercises or swims, even if using a waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen. Combine sunscreen with the other options above to prevent the sun from damaging skin.

Other Things to Know

The CDC also provides some additional tips and information on protecting your child’s skin from the sun.

  • Turning pink: Unprotected skin can be damaged in as little as 15 minutes, but it can take up to 12 hours for the skin to show the full effect of exposure. If your child looks “a little pink,” it may be a burn in a few hours. To prevent further damage, get your child out of the sun before they hit “pink.”
  • Tan: As the CDC puts it, tanned skin is damaged skin. Any change in color of your child’s skin indicates damage from UV rays whether it is a suntan or a sunburn. The “healthy, tanned glow” of your childhood is now known to be an indicator of potential skin cancer in the future.
  • Cool and cloudy: Just because it is cool or cloudy doesn’t mean you can’t get a sunburn. It is the sun’s UV rays that damage the skin, and clouds only slightly weaken UV rays. So be sure to use sunscreen and the other recommendations when spending time outside even on cool or cloudy days.
  • Oops: Summer activities have a way of running longer than we expect—Little League games that drag on or not wanting to head home when the kids are having so much fun on the playground. Plan ahead by having additional sunscreen on hand in your car, stroller, bag, or backpack so you can reapply it when the fun doesn’t want to end.

Photo © 1985 by Erin Stevenson O’Connor under Creative Commons license.

President’s Corner

As the year continues, I know everyone is really busy with this year’s school activities. The Illinois PTA has worked with the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative for many years and I would like to encourage you to have your children write about their favorite Male role model.

All children from grades K-12 can now enter this awesome yearly contest and express why their father, step-father, uncle, grandfather, father figure, or what their perfect father figure would be. Please share this with all of your units. The date has been extended to March 15th so ACT NOW.

I hope all of you enjoy this contest as much as I do. Attached is the contest rules, entry form and instructions. If you would like to be involved in judging the entries please do not hesitate to let me know at mrodriguez@illinoispta.org subject title: Essay.

I would also like to encourage you not to be discouraged if you have not met your membership numbers yet. Our Membership Director Julie Holdeman, is here to help with ideas, communication, and resources. She will be hosting the free webinar Rejuvenate Your Membership: A Mid-Year Push of 2017! on February 20th at 1pm and 7pm.

Take advantage of the final months of the school year. Winter is a great time to rejuvenate your membership campaign by reaching out to retain past PTA members, board members or staff and to welcome new members to your PTA. One process or attempt to gain members is not effective in retaining or growing your membership. Illinois PTA is happy to offer this webinar with ideas to reach out and welcome new members to your PTA.  This webinar will address:

  • Myths of why people don’t join or have misconceptions about the PTA and how we can reach out to them
  • How to promote your past, current, and future programs, events, resources or services provided.
  • Host a PTA “Refer A Friend” Challenge
  • Host a “Thank PTA” campaign- thru membership
  • And more ideas to try with your PTA.

Learn about how your PTA could be entered to win an IL PTA Membership Incentive.  PTA members are the driving force of our association. Your local unit needs members as leaders, volunteers, & proud supporters. Illinois and National PTA needs every member to build a constituency, giving us influence to advocate for positive legislation for our children. Help our numbers grow so that we can all make an even larger impact for our children and families.