The1st meeting of the Subcommittee on Elementary and Secondary Education of the Interim Joint Committee on Education was held on Monday, June 12, 2006, at 10:40 AM, in Room 129 of the Capitol Annex. Representative Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Vernie McGaha, Co-Chair; Representative Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, Co-Chair; Senators Brett Guthrie, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Mike Cherry, Hubert Collins, Rick G Nelson, Terry Shelton, and Ron Weston.
Guests: Representative Don Pasley; Cynthia F. Powell, Principal, Strode Station Elementary School; Pippi Guerrant, Clark County Schools; Wayne Young, KASA; Berea Ernst, Community Farm Alliance; Kyna Koch, Associate Commissioner, and Paul McElwain, Division Director, Kentucky Department of Education; and John Wilkerson, Kentucky Education Association.
LRC Staff: Janet Stevens, Audrey Carr, Jonathan Lowe, Zach Webb, and Jo Ann Paulin.
Representative Edmonds welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced the new committee members.
Representative Edmonds explained that when the 2005 Session concluded, SB 172 had passed and the bill required changes to the school breakfast and lunch programs. The bill also required councils in elementary schools to develop wellness policies that included daily physical activity for students and assessment tools to determine the students' physical activity levels. Representative Edmonds introduced Kyna Koch, Associate Commissioner, and Paul McElwain, Division Director, of the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). He also introduced Cynthia F. Powell, Principal of Strode's Station Elementary School, and Pippi Guerrant. Both ladies are from Clark County.
Ms. Kyna Koch said when it was recognized that a stronger emphasis needed to be put on the health of children, the Division of Nutrition and Health Services was reorganized. They had always administered the school breakfast and lunch programs. Health and nutrition have come more to the forefront and she thanked the General Assembly for their efforts on SB 172. She said, "There are some things that can be done through KDE but some just do not get the attention they deserve until the General Assembly says, 'Thou Shalt'." Ms. Koch said that this was one of those areas.
Mr. Paul McElwain, explained that the committee members were receiving a sun visor and a food thermometer compliments of the South Central Food Service Association. This is a group of school districts that range in area from Middlesboro up to Madison County, Kentucky. They had their summer workshop this past week and titled it aptly, "Healthy Children Under Construction."
Mr. McElwain gave a quick overview of the school breakfast and lunch programs in a PowerPoint presentation that is a part of this permanent record. He said that last Sunday, June 4, 2006, was the 60th anniversary of the National School Lunch Act that was signed by President Truman in 1946, which, at that time, authorized the National School Lunch Program. In the preamble of this act, it states that this program is "a measure of national security . . . of the Nation's children." That is because one-third of the high school graduates that took the draft physical in the 1940's failed it for reasons related to nutrition. That was a concern of the Congress who on nine previous occasions had tried to pass a national school lunch act and had not been able to do so. The Child Nutrition Act of 1966 authorized the breakfast program.
Mr. McElwain said there is a meal pattern that has to be met in the school lunch and breakfast programs. Schools must offer certain items of minimum portion sizes in order for the meal to be reimbursable. The lunch program must have five items: milk, meat, bread, two fruits, two vegetables or one fruit and one vegetable. The school breakfast program must offer milk and fruit/vegetable and choice of two breads or two meats or a meat and a bread.
Representative Collins said looking at all the meal patterns, he wondered how this fit with the schools that offer this plan plus a buffet of other things. He asked if the pattern was affected in a negative way. Mr. McElwain said that he didn't think so, but it could be. When you look at the meal pattern, there are other items that are credible, that is, they can be served and do meet the requirements of the meal pattern. Pizza is one of those items. Schools serve pizza and it does meet the federal lunch meal pattern. There will be some cases where they will not serve things that they could otherwise serve and still meet the particular meal pattern. They will make that decision based on what they see as the needs of their children.
Representative Collins said that when he was growing up, what was put on the table is what the children ate. Now a child refuses and says they want a hamburger and French fries. Mr. McElwain said everyone agrees that the schools did not cause the obesity problem. The solution is not to put this solely on the backs of the schools. The schools can help address it, but they need to count on parents and the communities to help.
Representative Collins asked if there was going to be communication with the students' homes. Mr. McElwain said there are already school districts that communicate with homes about what is on the menu and the nutrition analysis of the food served. Representative Collins said educators are going to have to promote that the students need to eat different things. Mr. McElwain said that they needed to use the school cafeteria as a laboratory to introduce children to particularly fruits and vegetables.
Mr. McElwain said that while participation rates continue to go up, participation rate at breakfast is of concern. Only about 30 percent of the children in attendance every day eat breakfast. The national average is 18 percent. While Kentucky is ahead of the national average at breakfast, we are nowhere close to the national average at lunch, which is 75 percent. There is no way to know how many students are eating breakfast before they get to school. Mr. McElwain said that several years ago the General Assembly required that bus schedules be arranged in such a way that all children get to school in time to eat breakfast. In the mid 90's, a law was passed that required any school not participating in the breakfast program to report this information to the state board. Currently, there are only six or seven public schools that do not participate in the breakfast program. Schools are trying to overcome the barriers to student participation and will continue to do so.
Mr. McElwain said of particular interest is the summer food service program. What do you do with some of these children when school is out? Some children live where economic stress is a factor and they don't eat except when they are in school. There are a number of communities across the state that participate in the summer food service program. There are approximately 180 sponsors, 125 of those being school districts. Participation across the state ranges from 50,000 to 70,000 children on a daily basis.
Representative Edmonds asked what age children are allowed to participate in the food services program. Mr. McElwain said they can participate until their nineteenth birthday. In some places, mothers who have not yet turned 19 are bringing along their children. It can be all meals, depending on what the center is offering. Representative Edmonds said that in the summer months, in a lot of communities when there is a program going on, children younger than 19 can come in and get a free meal.
Mr. McElwain said that in Clay County, the senior citizens sponsor the summer food service program. They prepare and deliver the meals. Faith-based organizations are also very involved in summer programs.
Senator Westwood said that he finds the comment astonishing that if children don't take advantage of the school food service program then they simply don't eat. That would still leave a lot of youngsters, who are not school age yet, that may be starving. He asked what was being done about them. Mr. McElwain said that what ends up happening is that the summer food service program is part of the safety net. Other safety nets include community-based or faith-based programs, food stamps, and WIC. However, the safety net does not catch them all, or at least it doesn't fulfill all the needs that are there.
Senator Westwood asked how many youngsters are caught in the safety net that might otherwise slip through. Mr. McElwain said that about 38 percent of the children enrolled in schools are approved for free meals. That would be about 38 percent of the average daily attendance of approximately 600,000 students, or about 250,000 children. If they are not school age or if school is not in session, then the food for those children is "insecure." Pre-school population figures are not available.
Representative Collins said that many children get up and get themselves ready for school, without breakfast. It has been found that not eating breakfast can cause discipline and learning problems. This is so important especially for the younger children. He said when he has been out campaigning he has seen things no one else knows about. Some of the situations you find are sad. He said the free breakfast, lunch, and Family Resource Centers have been the greatest things that have come along for these kids.
Representative Edmonds asked what level of income does a family of four need to qualify for the two children to get a free lunch. Mr. McElwain said that it was in the neighborhood of $17,000 a year. He said to keep in mind that there is a federal poverty level and then you can be eligible for free meals up to 130 percent over that amount. The WIC program is 185 percent. Mr. McElwain said he didn't know what the food stamp program requirements were. USDA has never gotten all three programs at the same eligibility level. It was discovered that young women that eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight. They don't tend to fill up later in the day when they are not going to expend as much energy.
Mr. McElwain said that in 2004, their programs were reauthorized by the Congress. As part of that reauthorization, school districts were required to draw up local wellness policies. He said that a summary of these policies are found on a CD included in the committee folders. They nicely dovetail with the provisions of SB 172. At the state and federal level it is realized that the schools have a part to play in addressing this situation with children.
Mr. McElwain went on to explain the various sections of SB 172. KRS 156.160 identifies penalties for noncompliance; KRS 158.850 explains retail fast food and how it can be provided in the cafeteria; KRS 158.852 deals with the qualifications for local district food service directors (Directors must be credentialed or hold a Level II certificate from the School Nutrition Association. Currently there are 38 credential holders, of which 20 are local directors, and 36 local directors who have Level II or III certification. The others must become credentialed or obtain a certificate within the next two years to meet the requirement.); KRS 158.854 requires a regulation be established that sets nutrition standards for food and beverages available at school in either vending machines or on the ala carte line; and 702 KAR 6090 sets nutrition standards and nutrient contents of foods that can be sold. A memo that provides guidance on the regulation is also a part of this permanent record. Mr. McElwain said there is a calculator on KDE's Web site that allows information about a particular food or beverage item to be entered and it will indicate if that item meets the requirements of the regulation. The calculator was borrowed from the Seattle Public School System. They were nice enough to let Kentucky borrow it and do some re-coding to fit the needs of our schools.
Mr. McElwain said what will end up being the most significant part of SB 172 is KRS 156.856. It requires that the school districts review and evaluate their nutrition and physical activity environment. KDE has provided instruments for school districts to use to do these evaluations. The CD that was distributed to the committee, "Local Levels Policies SB 172 Implementation," contains samples of evaluation instruments. Districts do an annual evaluation and report on the results of that evaluation, whether it is on the nutrition environment or the physical activity environment, to the school board members, local council members, and parents. KDE has developed a report card for districts to use that is one page, front and back in PowerPoint format. A copy is included on the CD in members' folders. As part of the report, the evaluation must include recommendations on how to improve the nutrition and physical activity environment. The local school board then has to present a plan on how they are going to carry out the recommendations. What is significant about this language and the federal language is that they basically fit together. KDE, in collaboration with KSBA, will be providing training this October. During the training KDE will recommend that the assessment of the physical activity and the nutrition environment be included in the comprehensive district improvement plan and the comprehensive school improvement plans. Mr. McElwain said that you cannot have more than one plan to improve things.
Representative Collins asked what are the minimum requirements for physical activity. Mr. McElwain said that what the schools are using for the physical activity is the School Health Index Module III, which deals with physical education and other activity programs. It recommends in the elementary level 150 minutes a week and at the middle and secondary level 225 minutes a week. That is a recommendation only. The language found in KRS 163.45 indicates that elementary schools (K-5) should develop a policy that provides for daily moderate to vigorous activity. The statute does not specify a minimum amount of time. Schools can use part of their six-hour day to provide physical activity. Representative Collins said that we are going to have to push to get this done.
Mr. McElwain said that Strode Station Elementary School in Clark County has taken this problem to heart. Local schools are going to have to make the decisions that they are going to address this issue. There is only so much that can be mandated.
Representative Edmonds said that the Education Joint Committee had an excellent site visit to Owsley County schools last interim. Owsley County was involved in a pilot project several years ago that provided a free lunch to every child in the district, regardless of income. Representative Edmonds asked how many school districts in the state are doing this now. Mr. McElwain said that it was less than a handful. He said Jackson, Owsley, and Wolfe Counties are currently doing this. He said maybe Clay County and Covington Independent provide free breakfast in the elementary schools. Representative Edmonds asked if it is a complicated process to get the program approved in the schools. Mr. McElwain said no, but you have to have a certain level of children who are approved for free meals in order for the district to be reimbursed for producing the meals. Jackson County made a decision that they would cover the deficit with general fund money in order to provide everyone a free meal.
Mr. McElwain introduced Pippi Guerrant and Cynthia Powell, both of Clark County. Ms. Powell thanked the committee for the invitation to come. Ms. Powell said that at Strode Station Elementary practical living is taught in the classroom and in PE class. They also participate in a "backpack program" where Family Resource Center staff put canned foods in children's backpacks for them to take home and eat for the weekend. Ms. Powell said they have tried to take out all food rewards for incentives and if recess has to be taken away, then the student is required to walk. They are not just sitting, but they must walk for 15 minutes and then play the rest of the time. PE is offered 30 minutes a day, twice a week along with 30 minutes of recess on the other days. This is required by the school's wellness policy. There was a short video about the Physical Activity and Nutrition (PAN) program at Strode Station Elementary, highlighting the "Take Ten Program." This program encourages classroom teachers to build into their existing lesson plans short activity breaks of no more than ten minutes. The video showed one class doing jumping jacks while reciting their multiplication tables, one doing arm circles in science class, and one doing stretching exercises during language arts class.
Ms. Powell said not only has this program had an impact on the children but the male teacher shown in the video has lost 25 or 30 pounds. She said he had suggested they come back and redo the video. Ms. Guerrant said that five or six years ago she came across the "Take Ten" program in some literature and she called Atlanta and talked to the lady that wrote the program. She purchased it with her own money for her then fifth grade class.
Ms. Guerrant said a group of people got together and worked on a PAN pilot program for a year. She said that "Take Ten" is only one component included in the pilot. She has been to many schools around the state explaining the program. She said that it has been very successful in the schools in which it has been used. She said this still isn't enough, and she would love to see PE taught five days a week throughout the school year at every level. She said she realizes this is not feasible. Some of the schools only have a PE teacher one day a week and that is also unacceptable. In Clark County, they have a PE teacher two days a week. In some schools some children never get in the gym. To be physically fit you have to work out three times a week, thirty minutes at a time, and you have to sweat.
Representative Shelton said the way he sees it there are two issues. One is obesity and the other is not enough food for others. He asked if they monitor the individual child or if there is an assessment built into the program. Ms. Powell said that part of the school's wellness policy requires that they do a written assessment on everyone from kindergarten through fifth grade, checking on their level of activity and the activities in which they would like to participate. They also require each child do age appropriate running for the physical part of the assessment. Representative Shelton asked if a student's heart rate or pulse rate is checked. Ms. Powell said that they are just timed. Representative Shelton asked if students are weighed. Ms. Powell said that the nurse does that and so does the PE teacher. Some schools use the body mass index (BMI). Ms. Powell said that in her last teaching situation, over 50 percent of the fifth graders were borderline obese or obese. Representative Shelton asked if there was a way to challenge the children to work toward a certain BMI. Ms. Powell said the PE teacher runs them about five or six minutes. Ms. Guerrant said that they teach nutrition as well as "this is what you need to do to be healthy." Representative Shelton said you need to teach the parents also. Ms. Guerrant said most children eat fast food and most families' life styles include running through the fast food window. She said it is a lifestyle change and these children will be the next generation of parents that we hope will make the change. She said the bottom line is that it is wonderful the steps that have been made but this is only half the battle. Sometimes you have influence over changing home lives and sometimes you don't. Sometimes children will go home and tell the parents what they need to do and sometimes they won't.
Representative Edmonds thanked the panel for coming and making their presentations. Representative Pasley thanked the Chair and the committee for inviting him today. He said that he is a product of the Clark County school system. He said even though his father had to quit school in the ninth grade to go to work, he put his three sisters through college and all three became teachers in the Clark County school system.
Representative Edmonds thanked the members for making the effort to be here. He said that the next meeting would be August 7, 2006, and Senator McGaha will be corresponding with the committee about that meeting.
He said recently he read that 52 percent of the children in his home county either live in a single parent home or with someone other than their parents. This mixes into the formula also and there are children that the best nutrition they receive is in the schools. He complimented Mr. McElwain for the job he does to help Kentucky's children have a healthy and nutritious breakfast and lunch.
There being no further business before the subcommittee, the meeting was adjourned at 11:40 AM.