In her search for funding to add heart rate monitors to all eight of the Irving Independent School District’s middle schools, Sandi Cravens learned a valuable lesson: requests never made are rarely granted.
In January, Cravens, Irving ISD’s Health and Physical Education Coordinator, received $35,000 from the district’s Every Student Succeeds Act’s Title IV-A funding allocation to purchase sets of IHT Zone wrist heart rate monitors to be used across her district. If not for some quick thinking by a new administrator, Cravens might not have even made the request for ESSA funding.
“I was familiar already with Title IV but I didn’t pay too much attention to it because I assumed the money would go to another group of people in our district because that’s usually how it works,” she said.
That feeling dates back to the reality of the No Child Left Behind Act, where schools focused primarily on the core subjects of math, English, science and social studies, leaving little time and even fewer funds available for electives such as art, music and physical education.
“We are trained in physical education and health to believe that we don’t deserve it, first of all,” she said. “It’s not on purpose. That’s just the way it usually works. So, we don’t ask for things and we assume, like I did, that we wouldn’t be eligible.”
Signed into law by President Obama in late 2015 and enacted for the 2017-18 school year, the Every Student Succeeds Act directs schools to focus on a well-rounded education that includes health and physical education, art and music as well as the traditional core subjects. The act still didn’t guarantee funding for those programs across the board, leaving teachers, advocates and administrators to apply for designated funds.
Cravens had received district funding for several new initiatives very recently, and that added to her reluctance to request ESSA funding.
“The district has supported all kinds of other things that I’ve wanted to do so I didn’t feel like I could go ask for more money this year,” she said. “Next year, maybe. I would have enquired more in my district had I not just gotten funding for several other things I had asked for. Those were paid for with local money.”
Next year became this year at the prompting of Irving ISD Director of Student Services Dr. Lance Campbell. After speaking with Irving’s Director of Federal Funding Fernando Natividad, Campbell learned the district hadn’t allocated all of its ESSA funding, particularly Title IV which focuses on programs that:
- provide students with a well-rounded education;
- support safe and healthy students; and
- support the effective use of technology.
Campbell advised Cravens to apply for funding that fit two of the three Title IV-A provisions, primarily safe and healthy students.
“They discussed that a certain percentage of Title IV money had to be spent on the health and safety of kids,” she said. ‘My boss, thankfully, said he knew exactly who to talk to about it. He sent me to the federal funding director to discuss it.”
Through the process, Cravens learned what type of program Natividad would approve and created it with the Zone heart rate monitors and IHT Spirit System software. The overriding lesson – to ask for funding when you need it – is one Cravens won’t soon forget.
“If it’s available again, then get the language you need and start preparing proposals,” she advises. “Reach out to the decision makers and let them know you have ideas for how we can spend the money and talk to them about programs that impact the children.”