Elmira, NY – Standing at Hendy Elementary School, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced that $1.65 billion in federal aid is now available for national physical fitness and education programs as well as other local priorities for schools throughout the country, including approximately $125 million for New York schools. The funding is part of Senator Gillibrand’s FIT Kids Act and was included in the national education bill recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama.
In the United States, one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and in the Southern Tier the rate is 35.5 percent. Physical activity can lower obesity risks and the diseases associated with it. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that school-age children complete at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. However, less than one-third of high school students across the country meet that standard.
“I’m pleased to announce that New York schools now have access to this federal grant funding to expand and improve physical education and fitness programs so our kids can learn about and lead healthy lifestyles.” said Senator Gillibrand, “We have to make our children’s health a priority, and that means investing in physical education programs that will boost their fitness and help them thrive in class. While some in Washington wanted to put fitness funding on the chopping block, we successfully fought to not only protect but also expand these programs so that our students learn good, healthy practices they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
“Our district is pleased by Senator Gillibrand’s effort to increase federal funding of physical education programs in New York schools,” said Superintendent Hillary Austin, Elmira City School District. “Through specific education programs and initiatives in our district, we are working hard to teach our students about the importance of physical activity and nutrition from a young age. The Senator’s FIT Kids Act provision would help us continue working towards improving the overall health and wellness of our students.”
The national education bill, the Every Student Succeeds Act, authorized funding for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program at $1.65 billion in Fiscal Year 2017 and $1.60 billion in each of Fiscal Years 2018 through 2020. All states and most school districts in the country will be eligible to receive grant funding through this program and will be able to target funds to meet their unique needs. The proportion of funding allocated to individual school districts will vary based on school districts’ share of low-income students.
Senator Gillibrand pushed for language to specifically allow school districts to use federal block grant funding under the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program of the Every Student Succeeds Act to develop, implement, and evaluate comprehensive programs and activities that support a healthy, active lifestyle, including nutrition education and physical education.
Senator Gillibrand pushed for the inclusion of this provision based on her FIT Kids Act, legislation to provide funding to improve physical fitness and education programs in K-12 schools.
Senator Gillibrand has also pushed to incorporate student health measures into major legislation before Congress this year. As a part of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, Gillibrand is fighting to protect fruit and vegetable serving standards to ensure school meals are nutritious. She was also successful in adding a provision to the national education bill based on her School Asthma Management Plan Act to ensure schools are equipped to respond to asthma attacks and are working to help prevent them from happening.