Monday, March 18, 2013

LB 447 testimony for Nebraska Healthy Kids Fund


[Testimony delivered to the Revenue Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature on March 15, 2013 in support of LB 447]

Good afternoon, Senators:

I am Dr. John Skretta [spell name, first and last] and I am Superintendent of the Norris school district.

I am here this afternoon to provide proponent testimony for Senator Avery's LB447. I want to thank you in advance for your service on the revenue committee. I can only intuit the challenge you face daily; the unsavory task of sifting through various and sundry proposals for use of our great state’s limited resources for a vast array of initiatives, some good, many meritorious, others questionable. As a school superintendent of a district that strives for high achievement while conserving costs, I empathize with the dilemmas encountered when considering the coinage.

I am here today to share with you some of what we believe becomes possible, probable and attainable for school districts in Nebraska should LB447 be adopted. 447 grabs its gusto by making a prudent public-health decision in order to provide resources that are needed for combating the public health epidemic of childhood obesity.

Coordinated school health initiatives have a practical impact in increasing the quality of the climate and environment within schools, encouraging fitness for a lifetime, and also and most importantly correlating to improved academic outcomes across content areas.

That is why our State Board of Education several years ago now adopted a Coordinated School Health Policy.

Unfortunately, heretofore there have thus far been no commensurate resources attached to the compliance dictates of a sound Coordinated School Health policy which "strongly encourages" schools to adopt its edicts.

The facts are:

Schools that wish to integrate physical activity routines in their classrooms must provide sustained professional development in order to coach teachers on these high efficacy strategies that work and that are easy to institute. Especially to provide help for those teachers who start out ambivalent or reluctant about the process. Resources are required for professional development.

Schools that wish to institute fitness testing in order to quantify student achievement in this key area and to assist students in developing meaningful personal fitness goals need resources to acquire the testing and training of teachers in its effective administration.  Fitness testing software and the effective use of it require resources.

Schools that strive to institute best practices in nutrition services must build their knowledge and expertise in order to realize the lofty goals that are incorporated in the school lunch program reauthorization and its attendant regulations. Our nutrition services personnel need the training in how to radically reconceptualize school lunch programs to offer truly delicious and nutritious choices for students that still manage the bottom line effectively. Acquiring that sort of expertise takes resources.

Physical education teachers in our great state who wish to modify their instructional practices in order to move away from a competitive team sports – based methodology and instead use a more participatory model that engages and promotes the physical activity of all kids need the opportunity to share strategies with their colleagues at the state and national levels and learn from one another. It takes resources to get teachers together across districts for workshops, conferences and other collaborative meetings.

For these and many other reasons, I strongly encourage you to give LB 447 your careful consideration. Please resist the urge to reject it out right on the basis of questionable claims when the resources which 447 would proactively channel to schools and public health offices would result in a tremendous positive impact for our state.

For what it's worth, in conclusion I just want to add that I personally don't think that lifting the tax-free status of soda pop would do much to deter the dedicated consumer - or even for that matter the impulse buyer. I can assure you that I would still make my ritualistic visits to the wonderful Rocket Fizz stores in Lincoln in order to acquire the pure cane original Dr Pepper straight out of Texas, and I'm pretty sure other cola connoisseurs would do much the same, the only variation being that which reflects the particular preferences of their palate. 

Thanks again for listening today and I'd be happy to take any questions at this time.

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