The Statewide Association Meeting will include hearings to discuss the Legislation Platform and the following five resolutions.
The Legislation Platform lays the framework for PTA action on legislation, is adopted biennially in even-numbered years by annual meeting delegates and defines the areas of interest and scope of the PTA legislation program. Commissions for communications, education, family engagement and health & community concerns study legislation within the framework of the legislation platform and current PTA positions.
Please click here to view the 2020 Legislation Platform.
Resolution A: E-cigarettes/Vaping, Flavored Tobacco Products and Youth Health
Please click here to read the full text of Resolution A.
Background: For many years, the PTA has actively promoted education about the dangers of tobacco and tobacco products and supported efforts to prevent tobacco use among underage users. Effective anti-smoking campaigns and tobacco-use prevention programs have achieved large reductions in cigarette use by youth over the past fifteen years. Until recently, we were seeing the lowest rates in decades of tobacco product use among young people. But as Suchita Krishnan-Sarin, Ph.D., of the Yale School of Medicine, says in her 2018 TedMed talk, “Vaping is the new smoking.”
Millions of young people are once again becoming addicted to nicotine. Deceptive advertising, and messaging that falsely claims that “vaping is healthier than cigarettes,” have led many young people to believe that vaping is not smoking, that vaping is healthier than cigarettes, and that vaping is cool. Students who know better have provided their own tagline, “They Lied; We Know.”
Current e-cigarette technology, combining freebase nicotine with benzoic acid, reduces the harshness when a person takes their first puff. This makes the initial vaping experience feel less harsh, allowing manufacturers to increase the nicotine concentration in electronic cigarettes from 2% to more than 4%.
Reduced harshness and attractive flavors might make this appear to be a superior product, but for the higher nicotine concentrations, ill health effects and the danger of addicting young people. Nicotine, flavorings, metals, chemicals and known carcinogens are delivered directly to the user’s lungs. And the flavorings are designed to be attractive to young people.
Tobacco companies tell the public not to worry. But nicotine is highly addictive, especially in an adolescent’s developing brain. And when young people become addicted, the support services that could help them are generally unavailable.
Traditional tobacco companies have begun investing in vaping companies and using the tobacco industry’s proven successful marketing strategies such as “youth influencers” to attract and addict young people. In order for the tobacco industry to survive, their business model must pivot and they must develop a replacement pipeline of new users. They have decided to target our kids.
Vape product manufacturers have been coming into our students’ schools to “teach that vaping is safer than smoking.” In effect, manufacturers have used the schools’ own tobacco prevention programs as part of their marketing campaigns to thrust their products into the hands of unsuspecting teens. Vaping has gone viral on the internet, too. Vape companies have betrayed the trust of schools, parents, and students. They lied. We know.
Resolution B: Net Zero Emission Schools
Please click here to read the full text of Resolution B.
Background: Our children are most vulnerable to the hazards of climate change. In 2015, California State PTA adopted a resolution entitled “Climate Change is a Children’s Issue,” that urged “school districts to support programs and strategies to make schools more climate-safe and energy efficient models.”
Research published over the ensuing 5 years shows how urgently we must act. Most notable is the 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which projects with high confidence that the risks and impacts of climate change can be significantly reduced if, by 2030, global net CO2 emissions from human activities decline by about 45% from 2010 levels, and then reach net zero by around 2050. Achieving emission reductions at this scale and speed requires participation from all sectors of our society. As institutions focused on improving the well-being of children, schools have a particular opportunity to participate in and even lead these efforts.
This resolution seeks to engage PTA members, and their communities, in a concerted effort to advocate for and encourage school efforts to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions at the rate required to safeguard the futures of our children and generations to come. California has existing laws, resources and guidance in place to help schools do this, and potential funding is also available. Program examples include the US Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools program and the California Air Resource Board’s “Cool California” website. Both facilitate local schools’ ability to inventory their greenhouse gas emissions and then develop emission reduction plans that align with local circumstances and possibilities. Programs like these are a great starting point, but we must make faster and more widespread progress.
In practice, greenhouse gas emission reductions at schools are likely to come from two main areas. First, California’s largest single category of greenhouse gas emissions is fossil fuel combustion to power on-road transportation (cars, buses and trucks). Schools contribute to such emissions both through transporting students (over 250 million school bus miles are traveled annually statewide) and through employee commuting by over 500,000 teachers and other employees. The second area is emissions from the buildings at over 10,000 schools statewide (typically through natural gas combustion for water heating and space heating). Many climate change mitigations involving buildings and transportation are viable today, and in many cases are more cost-effective than ‘business as usual.’
Finally, any realistic effort to address greenhouse gas emissions at schools throughout California must also provide the support needed to address the resource constraints – including funding, staffing, information and expertise – that many schools need to address in order to successfully plan and implement greenhouse gas emission reductions. Some schools have already made notable progress, and highlighting their successes and ‘lessons learned’ can help others who are at earlier stages in their journey to achieving net zero emissions.
Resolution C: Mental Health Services for our Children and Youth
Please click here to read the full text of Resolution C.
Background: Mental health is a critical part of overall health for children. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 6 of U.S. youths ages 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year. Of children ages 9 to 17, 21% have a diagnosable mental or addictive disorder that causes impairment. An estimated 90% of children who die by suicide have a mental health disorder. In 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 24. Mental health disorders, suicide ideation, and the suicide rate among adolescents is increasing across the country.
For many adults who have mental disorders, symptoms were present in childhood and adolescence, but often not recognized or addressed. National PTA resolution Children’s Emotional Health and Mental Health Awareness states that “mental illness and disorders affect so many children and teens ages 6 to 17 that 79% of them do not receive mental health care.”
For a young person with symptoms of a mental disorder, the earlier treatment is started, the more effective it can be. Early intervention can help prevent more severe, lasting problems as a child grows up. Untreated, these mental health issues put children at risk for school and social behavior problems, academic issues, increased absenteeism, school dropout, and suicide.
The National PTA resolution referenced above recognizes that “the majority of young people who do receive mental health treatment do so at school.” The average school counselor, if the school has one, is often the first point of contact for addressing students’ social emotional concerns. California State PTA resolution Increasing Counselor to Student Ratio in Schools (2000) recognizes the importance of increasing the ratio of counselors to students and that the American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of one counselor to 250 students. California Education Code does not require schools to have counselors, likely resulting in California having one of the highest student to counselor ratios in the nation.
Mental health education brings awareness to students of the importance of their mental health. The California Department of Education’s Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) focuses on aligning initiatives and resources within an educational organization to address the needs of all students. MTSS coordinates academic, behavioral, and social emotional learning in a fully integrated system of support by focusing on the “whole” student. MTSS is designed to intervene quickly and help struggling students early. Social emotional learning helps students learn coping skills and how to deal with their emotions. When a student is mentally healthy, they do better academically.
The funding to address mental health issues in California public schools is inadequate. With proper funding, local public schools can increase the number of school counselors, provide mental health education and awareness for both students and staff, provide social emotional learning curriculum, and address all key aspects for our students’ mental health issues.
Resolution D: Promote Evidence Based Policies and Practices to Improve Equitable Outcomes for Marginalized Children and Youth
Please click here to read the full text of Resolution D.
Background: Research in health, education and juvenile justice fields shows that the use of evidence-based policies and practices improve outcomes for marginalized children and youth. These contrast with practices and perceived remedies that, even though in common use, are not well-proven and may, in fact, be harmful.
Evidence-based practice involves the incorporation of components shown to improve outcomes and quality of life, and are commonly based on systematic reviews, randomized control trials, and proven practice guidelines. Evidence-based policy is consciously anchored to peer-reviewed research evidence, not to current practices or established beliefs alone. The pertinent evidence needs to be well identified, described and analyzed. The policymakers are thus equipped to determine whether the policy is justified by the evidence.
Many examples of evidence-based practices in schools have been shown to improve student outcomes. Cultural bias training and ongoing professional development in culturally responsive teaching positively correlates to increases in achievement and college readiness for students of color and indigenous students, and to decreases in suspension and disciplinary action. The use of Universal Design for Learning instructional strategies and education yields better social and academic outcomes for students with and without disabilities. Science-based health instruction and therapeutic support programs for gender identity and human sexuality are among the practices that improve mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ children and youth.
Policies based on evidence have also been shown to positively correlate to improved and more equitable outcomes for marginalized children and youth. Examples include the screening of employment candidates for bias and intolerance and the identification and treatment of individuals with disabilities in the juvenile justice system.
Equal protection under the law provides for all children to have equal opportunity and access to all aspects of society, regardless of sex, race, ability, or other difference. Our marginalized children and youth include, but are not limited to, those with disabilities, those who are LGBTQ+, and those who are indigenous or of color. These young people tend to experience worse life outcomes than their counterparts. Increased use of evidence-based practices and policies have been proven to improve life prospects for these children and youth.
Resolution E: Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention Funding
Please click here to read the full text of Resolution E.
Background: While good quality health care is essential for all Californians, investing in building healthier communities can prevent illness and injury, and provide more equitable health access. Preventable diseases such as obesity, pre-diabetes and asthma are at epidemic levels with an estimated 39% of Californians suffering from at least one chronic condition, yet investment in prevention is inadequate.
As health care spending continues to increase in California, funding for chronic disease and injury prevention continues to be inadequate. Just 2% of the 2019-2020 California State Budget is allocated for public health. That compares to a national figure of 2.5% in 2017. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) ranked California 43rd in total federal funding per capita in 2018.
Furthermore, the federal Prevention and Public Health Fund, created by the Affordable Care Act in 2010 with an intention to provide communities across the nation funding to combat chronic disease, has suffered from significant reductions, with California losing $146 million between 2010 and 2016. As a result, many public health programs are supported by one-time grants, resulting in stop and go funding that leaves public health departments, nonprofits and community partners in the lurch after launching projects that have demonstrated success in battling risk factors for chronic disease.
Furthermore, the ability to live a healthy life is not fairly distributed. California African American, Latino and Native American children, and all children who grow up in poverty, are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases and to have increased risk for chronic diseases into adulthood. Research as early as 2001 shows the increased risk for coronary events (heart attack and death from cardiovascular disease) for those living in disadvantaged neighborhoods. These disparities continue today.
Communities across the state are mobilizing, building assets and developing leadership to change these unjust outcomes. Increased funding for chronic disease and injury prevention can help nurture that capacity and provide opportunity for a healthier future for children.
The California State PTA has long advocated for the health and well-being of California’s children and has adopted many positions and resolutions stating their belief in “the importance of preventing and eliminating factors that may be detrimental to the health, safety and well-being of all children, families and youth”. However, the very programs that promote children’s health have grossly inadequate funding to meet the need. A source of sustained, dedicated funding for chronic disease and injury prevention can improve the health and well-being of all children in California.