New School Funding Formula and Health Impacts

The Illinois Public Health Institute Supports State Transition to Equitable, Evidence-Based Model for K-12 School Funding

ILLINOIS – The Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) lauds the Illinois General Assembly for passing a landmark education funding reform bill. The new law will transition the state away from a school funding system based on property taxes, which created wide disparities between high-income and low-income districts, to a new, more equitable evidence-based school funding formula driven by district need and ability to generate funds from property taxes.

“There is a strong body of evidence that links health with educational attainment,” said Elissa Bassler, IPHI’s CEO. “People with more education are likely to live longer, experience better health outcomes and practice health-promoting behaviors. Across Illinois and especially in Chicago, minority and low-income residents are disproportionately burdened by obesity and chronic disease. These issues are exacerbated in areas with low-resource schools that struggle to provide high-quality education. This restructured formula will help address these disparities and improve the long-term health outcomes of our most vulnerable residents.”

However, IPHI is disappointed that the law included a provision that reduces the amount of physical education (P.E.) from a daily requirement to only three days a week. Illinois has been a leader in valuing children’s health, requiring daily P.E. for students in grades K-12. There is no substitute for daily, high-quality P.E., which helps students meet the National Physical Activity Guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. Not only does P.E. help kids stay active, but it provides the education they need to develop lifelong skills in fitness and health, preventing disease for years to come. In addition, there is strong evidence demonstrating a connection between physical activity and physical fitness and improved academic and behavioral outcomes among students. IPHI is concerned that reducing P.E. could reduce some of the gains that can be achieved through better school funding.

Eliminating the daily P.E. requirement runs counter to the sequential, multi-pronged effort the state has undertaken since 2012 to implement high-quality P.E. to promote academic achievement and realize the lifetime benefits of fitness. These efforts have included revising the State Learning Standards on Physical Development & Health to shift the focus of P.E. to health and fitness rather than sports and competition and a new requirement for fitness testing for all K-12 public school students. This work is driven by a new understanding that high-quality P.E. is as important as math, science, or any other core subject because it correlates directly to the health and well-being of students for the rest of their lives.

As disappointed as IPHI is with the elimination of daily P.E., we understand that governing requires compromise, and it took compromise to get the needed bipartisan support to pass the evidence-based model into law. That said, we will continue to support the many districts across the state that are implementing high-quality daily P.E. and to work to strengthen P.E. requirements.

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The Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) mobilizes stakeholders, catalyzes partnerships, and leads action to promote prevention and improve public health systems in order to maximize health, health equity and quality of life for the people of Illinois.

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