Why By State and Not Federal?
Why do we need to address child health & wellness state-by-state, instead of primarily nationally/federally?
The Obama administration’s work on child health and the George W. Bush administration’s work on K-12 academic achievement & testing show the potential, but also the limits and even downside of federal involvement in schools.
On the other hand, the voluntary Let’s Move initiative led by Michelle Obama raised awareness across the country of the importance of kids’ physical activity—but failed to halt the decline in the main traditional sources of physical activity at school: recess and physical education.
In fact, a big chunk of that decline can be traced to the growing nationwide focus in the 1990s on school accountability and standardized testing to increase academic achievement K-12. This was turbo-charged in the 2000s by a George W. Bush-era yet bipartisan federal policy push called No Child Left Behind.
The resulting increased scrutiny and pervasive standardized testing in reading, writing & math—typically without an adequate accompanying increase in school funding—had the unintended consequence of incentivizing school leaders to slash recess, arts education, and physical & health education—in order to focus instruction time instead on tested subjects, for which they were held accountable.
Disastrously, the increased seat-time at-school happened, just as screens and less activity became more ubiquitous in homes.
The consequences: epidemic sedentary behavior among children in both settings.
The health implications were catastrophic. As Mayo Clinic declared:
“Sitting has become the new smoking.”
Fast forward two decades: This is now being reflected in widespread teen prediabetes and young & middle-age adult diabetes, as well as much earlier-onset cardiovascular conditions and a doubling in young adult cancer.
During this same timeframe, the political dialogue became increasingly partisan & hostile.
Given the filibuster in the Senate, any policy reform with a potential whiff of controversy—which includes almost anything involving K-12 education—is no longer viable to reform at the federal level.
In spite of this: Healthy Students Healthy States gets us there.