Skip to main content

Archbishop Bergan Elementary Physical Educator Heads to Capitol Hill to Advocate for Health & Physical Education

SHAPE America Members Will Ask Congress to Fully Fund Title IV, Part A of ESSA

Fremont, NE, February 16, 2018 — In response to serious threats of cuts to the federal funding of the bi-partisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Wyatt Morse from Archbishop Bergan headed to Capitol Hill to advocate for full funding to support professional development for teachers and health and physical education programs in schools.
Morse asked lawmakers to fully fund the federal education program Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, under ESSA.

Morse joined more than 150 fellow health and physical educators representing 42 states on Capitol Hill to take part in the SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators 11th annual member advocacy day, SPEAK Out! Day, on February 13-14.

When ESSA was passed in 2015, health and physical education were designated as part of a well-rounded education, making these subjects eligible for federal education funding for the first time. Under a new program, Title IV, Part A, schools will receive funding to support a well-rounded education, safe and healthy student programs, and effective use of technology. Despite Title IV, Part A being authorized at $1.65 billion dollars in ESSA, Congress only appropriated $400 million to support these vital programs for FY 2017. As Congress reconciles appropriations for FY 2018 and beyond, several proposals in Congress would also significantly underfund ESSA and put health and physical education at risk of not being able to thrive in schools.

“Under this block grant, we are going to be competing with many other subject areas and programs for financial support. We need to make sure that the pot of money is as large as possible to ensure that health and physical education programs will have the chance to access at least a portion of that funding,” says Morse.

During these Capitol Hill meetings, teachers and advocates offered insight and perspective on the negative impact of marginalizing health and physical education in schools. They will also share success stories and the links that exist between health, physical education, and academic achievement.

“I am very lucky to teach at a place like Bergan where they really value the importance of physical education and educating the whole child. This starts at the top with our principal Dan Koenig who is very supportive of getting students moving. Our students have regular physical education classes where the focus is on developing skills needed to be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle in the future. The cool part for me is to see our classroom teachers getting on board with having their classes move during regular instruction time. Many will allow kids a brain boost activity while transitioning between subjects so students can recharge and refocus for the next task. Classes also have started to use exercise balls in replacement of traditional chairs to accommodate students. What makes physical activity more meaningful today is there is data to show that active and healthy students do much better in the classroom.” Morse added.

SHAPE America’s Director, Public Policy and Advocacy Carly Wright says it is critical to fund Title IV, Part A at a meaningful level as many state’s ESSA plans address student wellness, physical education, or chronic absenteeism, which is often impacted by a student’s health and physical activity habits.

“As states help to guide school districts in fully implementing ESSA for the 2018-19 school year, we must ensure that they have sufficient funding to effectively enact programs that will support the state’s educational priorities,” says Wright. “In turn, we are also laser-focused on ensuring that health and physical education are on top of state’s priority lists.”

In addition to pushing for full funding for Title IV, Part A, advocates also asked Congress to support continued funding for Title II, Part A, which supports professional development for all school employees, including for health and physical education programs.

Effective health and physical education are the cornerstones to preparing students to lead active, healthy lives, which is SHAPE America’s national commitment called 50 Million Strong by 2029.

About SHAPE America
SHAPE America - Society of Health and Physical Educators is committed to ensuring all children have the opportunity to lead healthy, physically active lives. As the nation's largest membership organization of health and physical education professionals, SHAPE America works with its 50 state affiliates and national partners to support initiatives such as the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, Let's Move! Active Schools (now Active Schools) and the Jump Rope For Heart/Hoops For Heart programs.

Since its founding in 1885, the organization has defined excellence in physical education, and our resources provide the leadership, professional development and advocacy that support health and physical educators at every level - from preschool to university graduate programs. For more information, visit