Adam Kozek & Justin Chan, Childhood Obesity (Addressing K-12 Health & Fitness Education in Michigan)

Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Our proposal concentrates on increasing the funding for physical and nutritional education in public high schools. We found that our work is closely related to Senate Bill No. 218, Section 8-1226. Much like our proposal, this bill allocated funds “for a school children's healthy exercise program to promote and advance physical health for school children in kindergarten through grade 8.” The main difference between this bill and our proposal is that we are focusing on early high school education. We feel that there is not enough emphasis on physical and nutritional health in Michigan at this age, and these students can maturely retain knowledge and see the benefits of our efforts.

Another part of the bill mentions that “[t]he department shall recommend model programs for sites to implement that incorporate evidence-based best practices.” We want to adopt a similar approach by constructing a centralized nutritional education program that is more in-depth than the current one recommended by the Michigan Merit Curriculum.

Link to Senate bill

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

This proposal should make a notable difference in the lives of students across Michigan because an emphasis on improving and expanding the statewide core physical education and nutrition standards will combat obesity and ideally instill healthier long-term habits in children of all ages. It is highly likely that nutrition education programs are effective and can have lasting impacts on eating behaviors, as shown by a 2014 study on a community-based nutrition education program for low-income parents. Factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic include diet, physical activity, psychology, sleep, environment, socioeconomic status, genetics, and medical conditions among others (as we delve into more closely). Therefore, it is crucial that we counter the problem in the most tangible manner possible, which naturally involves looking at what schools can be doing better. While adjusting programs and requirements may likely require cost allocation and may face some initial backlash, the solution will ultimately pay huge dividends. Fighting obesity and health-related problems should not involve sheltering students, but rather embracing the challenges and temptations commonly encountered in the real world. Increasing the Michigan Merit Curriculum requirement from one-credit to two-credits, mandating at least one nutrition-based course for children (that also explains how to be health-conscious consumers), and expanding the amount of free play offered will serve universally beneficial.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

The obesity epidemic is a well-known national dilemma, but our knowledge on the problem developed gradually. Justin has been passionate about the issue since he struggled with his weight as a child, and Adam, while consistently aware of the topic, gained a greater understanding as he explored the subject further in his health and fitness course this semester (a class taken out of interest). Collectively, we care about making strides to alleviate many of the long-term negative consequences associated with obesity. Upon discovering how the issue specifically manifests itself in the state of Michigan, we saw this as an excellent topic for our proposal. In addition, certain discussions on the caucus (i.e. soda tax) have encouraged us to examine the issue from different perspectives and consider new variables. Conversations with experts on the subject have pushed our curiosity even further.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Our service activity has heavily influenced our thinking about this proposal. Adam worked at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, and his participation as an activity facilitator shaped his understanding on the positive impact of an interactive, analytical, and open approach to education for children. Observing the effectiveness of this hands-on teaching method is very relevant in the context of our proposal, as we hope to improve and expand educational programs as it pertains to diet and physical activity. Justin volunteered at 826michigan as a tutor for middle schoolers and early high schoolers. Through his candid conversations with the students, he discovered that many children felt they were not learning enough or much at all in their physical education courses, and they even felt forced to make unhealthy choices in the cafeteria. Collectively, our different service experiences have allowed us to approach the problem from unique angles.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

Newsletter & Interview: Childhood Obesity, Addressing K-12 Health & Fitness Education in Michigan

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1:

Mr. Steve Angelotti currently serves as the Associate Director of the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, having served there for almost 29 years. He is one of the Fiscal Analysts in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which includes Health and Human Services, Medicaid, Cash Welfare Grants, Children’s Services, Mental Health, and Public Health. The SFA is a nonpartisan legislative agency that provides staff support for the Senate Appropriations Committee and is responsible for putting together the state budget each year. We were extremely fortunate to have Mr. Angelotti for a consultation since his expertise as the head fiscal analyst gave us invaluable insight into costing and potential funding options.

Mr. Angelotti was able to speak on the priority of childhood obesity in the DHHS budget, which he addressed as “not a high priority,” stating that the majority of the budget goes to Medicaid for low-income individuals. This indicates that most of the budget’s funds are going towards reactionary measures like health insurance, rather than preventative measures such as education to prevent childhood and adulthood obesity. He informed us that the reason that physical and nutritional education have not been a “high priority” is because funding these programs would not be covered under Medicaid spending, so establishing a program would be funded strictly on state dollars. The state would face 100% of the costs, which makes it more difficult, politically-speaking, to get programs like this off the ground. However, the School Aid fund of the Michigan SFA is actually one of the largest state-funded programs, with over $12.3 billion of its $14.2 billion budget coming from state funds. So, it’s entirely feasible to fund our program with state money, but it will just be more difficult to “sell” legislators on the proposal.

Mr. Angelotti suggested one way to frame this proposal would be to emphasize the “down-the-line” savings on Medicaid that would result from a decrease in childhood & adulthood obesity as a result of increased physical and nutritional education. However, he also acknowledged the difficulty of reallocating funds to the School Aid budget from other departments’ budgets, since the state budgets are siloed off. It is also difficult to quantify these benefits since they are only estimates and they would not be realized until far in the future.

From our conversation with Mr. Angelotti, we gathered that our proposal is entirely feasible from a monetary standpoint. The School Aid fund is massive and has the leeway to fund our proposal. That being said, it will be a challenge to “sell” to legislators so we will have to carefully frame the costs and benefits of the proposal.

CONSULTATION 2:

Dr. Elliot B. Barsh currently serves as the Director of Patient Experience (Mount Sinai Health System) at CareMount Medical in New York. We were very fortunate to get in contact with him early in the proposal process, as he provided us with some helpful initial guidance and also gave us useful feedback along the way. By forcing us to look broader and by challenging some of our initial sentiments, Dr. Barsh was an ideal expert who pushed our thoughts further. For example, he acknowledged that he has certainly seen a rise in childhood obesity rates, but he explained that it is extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of such persisting into adulthood. Other than issues like diet, physical activity level, and surroundings, he brought up decision-making as one of the major components of this unfortunate reality. This encouraged us to think deeper about why children make certain choices as it pertains to health, and we wanted to figure out how to guide children into adopting long-term skills that promote a healthy lifestyle. This mindset is one of the main reasons why we have examined efforts to expand educational programs in Michigan schools in order to instill within children a fundamental ability to make better decisions later in life.

Later in the process, Dr. Barsh guided us more specifically on what schools could be doing better. He addressed that schools, especially in today’s time, are pressured into raising academic standards, which is completely understandable. However, increased emphasis on testing and scholastic metrics has naturally caused education on health and wellness to take a back seat. He mentioned that such can contribute to children being overworked, stressed, and unable to get sufficient sleep on a regular basis. He discussed that schools knowingly make tradeoffs, making efforts to create change difficult. Nonetheless, he pointed to the topic of adequate “free play” for students, which is not a commonly addressed issue. This lack of free play, which refers to a time of unrestricted, non-competitive activity for K-12 students, can lead to sedentary choices and negative health consequences. He supported our proposal idea to expand the statewide core physical education and nutrition program, but he challenged us to look at what age groups would be effective targets for our solution and to think about what tangible changes in the classroom can be made. Overall, Dr. Barsh was an incredible resource throughout the research process.

Newsletter & Interview: Childhood Obesity, Addressing K-12 Health & Fitness Education in Michigan

CONSULTATION 3:

Dr. Stephanie Hirschberg, a University of Michigan graduate, holds a PhD in child psychology and is very active with Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE). She has proved to be an excellent resource for us due to her comprehensive knowledge on childhood obesity and enthusiasm for the topic. Importantly, she did not mirror Dr. Barsh in terms of approaches and feedback on our proposal, and it was very helpful to take both perspectives into account. In addition, she confirmed that there is no consensus on how to best combat the problem, but the support of our experts assured us that our proposal was feasible and potentially effective. Unlike Dr. Barsh, who presented a pediatric point of view, Dr. Hirschberg unsurprisingly looked at things from a psychological perspective, as her experience with children allows her to speak on the subject well. For example, she described that competitive sports in high school can often discourage children from exercising, and this can lead to sedentary choices and low self-esteem, worsening the problem.

She explained that we must understand that many factors contributing to childhood obesity are out of our control from a policy standpoint, so it is vital that we hone in on the approaches that could make a difference. When we presented our thoughts, Dr. Hirschberg appreciated the educational approach we are taking, and supported us along the way.

As we continued to flesh out our ideas, she provided us with more relevant information. For instance, she explained that fast food is often an easy, convenient food option to which many children resort. Despite the negative health consequences, this is a common choice given affordability and strong marketing. Kids are often quite susceptible to advertising efforts from large companies, and Hirschberg agreed with us that teaching children the skills to individually be aware of and combat the countless temptations out there is important. Because children are an easy target, schools have a responsibility to provide healthy food options, grant sufficient exercise opportunities, and offer educational classes or programs to inform students on the many marketing traps in the real world. This skillset is absolutely necessary, and understanding these complications is valuable. Allowing children to adopt better practices when nobody is watching is something we took into account when crafting our proposal.

Newsletter & Interview: Childhood Obesity, Addressing K-12 Health & Fitness Education in Michigan

 

Prospectus:

Describe the specific issue or problem, being sure to provide sufficient context so that someone less familiar with the issue has a sense of the bigger picture, but know that your focus here is on a more detailed spelling out of the specific problem or issue that you’ve identified. (250 words minimum)

Childhood obesity is a national dilemma, and the problem is prevalent in the state of Michigan. It is indispensable that we address this issue immediately for the sake of children's’ health. Michigan currently ranks as the #13 state in the US in childhood obesity, with 14.2% of children qualifying for “obesity.” This percentage is 0.3% higher than the national average of 13.9% of children qualifying for “obesity.” Childhood obesity has shown high correlation with obesity into adulthood, which can cause various health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (Dietz). It is important that we work toward mitigating this trend by attacking the source. Instilling in children healthy habits and equipping them with the knowledge to avoid these consequences should substantially curb obesity in adults as a result.

Not only does the obesity epidemic in Michigan create health-based complications, but such also bear negative financial consequences. The estimated medical costs of obesity in 2008 in Michigan were approximately $3.1 billion, and this number will surely continue to trend upward if we remain complacent. Undoubtedly, this problem creates a multitude of additional obstacles that are costly and debilitating.

We have isolated several contributing factors to childhood obesity. The most notable ones we have identified are unhealthy dietary choices, lack of physical activity, psychological struggles, and inadequate sleep. We understand that environment, socioeconomic status, genetics, medical conditions, and many other factors are extremely relevant. However, it is challenging to tangibly combat each of these problems with our policy-based initiative. Therefore, we strive to address this reality by increasing children’s education about food and fitness to foster a healthier mentality and shape better futures.

Currently in the state of Michigan physical education is required in public schools, but only makes up a tiny part of students’ curriculum. The current curriculum is focused around skill-based activities such as tennis, soccer, and basketball – all very important in their own right – but hardly require any components in nutrition or health. Michigan high schools only require one “health-and fitness component,” which could be Aerobic Exercises, Strength Activities, Flexibility Exercises, or Nutrition Concepts. This means that many schools do not even require a nutrition course for students, which could lead them to make unhealthy dietary choices in their everyday lives. Because Michigan schools reach over 1.5 million children each day for over 180 days of the year, they should actively be part of this solution.

Michigan’s public education is not placing enough emphasis on the importance of nutrition for children. Nutrition concepts should be a mandatory course for every child in public schooling so that they can make healthy, educated food choices. Childhood obesity is a problem that can be solved over time through increased secondary education. Knowledge and awareness will lead to lifestyle changes, improved performance, greater self esteem, and long-term societal improvement. It is also highly likely that nutrition-based educational programs are effective and can have lasting impacts on eating behaviors, as shown by a 2014 study on a community-based nutrition education program for low-income parents.

Sources:

 

Health Consequences of Obesity in Youth: Childhood Predictors of Adult Disease

Michigan Merit Curriculum

Childhood Obesity in Michigan

CDC Statistic on Michigan Childhood Obesity

CDC Statistic on US Childhood Obesity

A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Community-Based Nutrition Education Program for Low-Income Parents

Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

Solution 1: Expand the statewide core physical education/nutrition program. 

As mentioned in our prospectus, physical education and health are a small component of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, Michigan’s current state-mandated education guidelines. We propose increased funding to expand physical education, raising its requirement from one-credit to two-credits. This increase would entail a mandate of a health and nutrition course to be taught in every public high school to ensure that all students graduate with a general understanding of health and nutrition. This elevated requirement would also change the physical education standards of the Michigan Merit Curriculum. Currently much of the requirements are focused on certain games, such as tennis and basketball. Our proposal would keep the games aspect of the curriculum, but also introduce more general skills-based physical activity components, such as learning about strength training, kinesiology/muscle groups, and how the human body works. This general knowledge will enable students to better gauge their own lifestyles in terms of health.

The dedicated nutrition course will also delve into health-conscious consumer behavior because such is deceptively challenging. In a discussion with Dr. Stephanie Hirschberg, one of our consulted experts, we learned that children are psychologically and mentally more vulnerable to persuasive tactics. Why is this relevant? Essentially, in our technological era, children are constantly exposed to commercials and advertisements that specifically target young, impressionable consumers. Therefore, many children are manipulated by companies that sell unhealthy products to the public, which is a well known contributor to the obesity dilemma. It is pivotal that children become aware of these traps at a young age through a structured course in school. The class will explain the problem and instruct students on how to properly assess the validity of any given advertisement. The hope with this solution is that children will recognize when an attempt to manipulate is being utilized and how to approach the problem. These advertisements are not going away anytime soon, so it is indispensable that our youth anticipate these deceptive tactics and appropriately respond to make healthy choices. In terms of age, we were considering offering the option to high school students, as they may likely be able to retain these strategies more effectively.

Sources:

Michigan Physical Education and Physical Activity Survey 2014

Michigan Merit Curriculum

10 Tricks Food Marketers Use to Make You Buy

Solution 2: Increase the amount of available “free play” for K-12 students.

Increasing the amount of “free play” made available for K-12 students is a potential solution that stems from our expert consultations. “Free play” refers to both in-school recess time as well as after-school physical activities. In particular, Dr. Elliot B. Barsh, who currently serves as the Director of Patient Experience (Mount Sinai Health System) at CareMount Medical in New York, explained the rationale behind this concept with which we had not previously considered. The causes of childhood obesity, as discussed in our prospectus, are not the only aspects worth examining. A commonly unnoticed problem relates to a lack of “free play” for children in school. Essentially, there has been an increase in “organized play” over the years, but obesity rates have still gone up. Why is this occurring? Understanding this dilemma involves looking at what “organized play” is missing. Although such gives children a strong skillset and a sound fundamental knowledge of discipline and responsibility, there are downsides to such structured activities. This form of play can be viewed as too rigid, stifling, and restrictive. Most importantly, organized play leaves many children excluded due to the competitive aspect. Therefore, we propose that schools be required to develop more inclusive play opportunities from K-12. “Free play” time in the forms of both recess and after-school physical activities should be increased to create better child outcomes. Attacking this issue from a young age is obviously crucial, but it is important that efforts continue beyond those years. Often high school sports become incredibly competitive, and those who cannot make teams feel ostracized and discouraged. Eliminating this stigma involves a hands-on approach with more available ways to get active. Schools should be responsible for providing these opportunities in any way possible.

Sources:

http://www.babygroup.co.za/Information/Toddler/Structured-Play/Pros-and-Cons-Structured-vs-free-play

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2011/10/all-work-and-no-play-why-your-kids-are-more-anxious-depressed/246422/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/09/01/the-decline-of-play-in-preschoolers-and-the-rise-in-sensory-issues/?utm_term=.fb621db3f22d

Solution 3: Require at least one class for children that explains how to be health-conscious and knowledgeable consumers in the real world.

We propose that every public high school in the state of Michigan be mandated to send out daily cafeteria menus with in-depth nutritional information. These menus will be distributed electronically to students’ phones via text message and will be posted on schools’ public websites. This idea came about from our conversation with Orian Shkrobut in Topic Coordinator office hours. We thought that this would be both cheap and effective since it requires little legwork from schools. Almost all public high schools contract out food services to large corporations like Aramark and Sodexo, who can easily provide nutritional information because the food is prepared in large batches beforehand.

Having students know of the school’s meals that day beforehand will be great information because the student can make healthy, educated choices on what to eat. Likewise, parents can also use this information to plan out a child’s meals for the day. If lunch features calorie-heavy options such as mashed potatoes or fried foods, parents can adjust and cook healthy, lighter options for dinner at home so that children are getting their necessary nutrition. We believe that this solution will enable children to plan their in-school meals ahead of time and be ready to make more health-conscious decisions.

 

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

We consulted with Topic Coordinator Orian Shkrobut about our proposal. The majority of our conversation was centered around finding a final consultant and how to accurately estimate costs and funding. Orian suggested that we look at the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency website to find an appropriate Senator to reach out to. Thanks to Orian, we were able to get in contact with Mr. Steve Angelotti, the head fiscal analyst for the Department of Health and Human Services, for our third consultation.

Orian also gave us great feedback on our proposal, providing us with not only constructive criticism but also with innovative suggestions. He encouraged us to put more emphasis on the costs of our proposal and to come up with a concrete, tangible dollar figure that can be presented to the legislature. Orian drew on his personal experiences and talked about how, when he crafted his proposal, he estimated a per-school figure, based on extensive research, and then applied that figure to every high school in the state of Michigan. We believe this is a great way to estimate funding, and we have applied this model. We will definitely heed Orian’s advice and make sure to come up with an accurate figure as well as options to gather the money needed to fund our program.

Although we did not meet with TC Elijah Akhtarzad in person, he gave us great feedback in the comments section of our proposal. Through our conversations with Elijah, we were able to figure out a way to consolidate our three proposed solutions into one holistic solution. Elijah also helped us immensely by giving us direction early on. He reminded us to keep in mind the specificity of our solutions and to focus on the stakeholders, which includes the priorities of those who would be funding it.

  Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

  1. Topic Selection: While we were both interested in working toward ways to alleviate the obesity epidemic, we did not land on this topic right away. In fact, such a decision followed a good amount of exploration through various discussions with other members of the caucus. Ultimately, we both found the “Health of youth and children” most intriguing in terms of searching for solutions. Having participated in many health related talks with our peers, we saw obesity as a suitable subject of focus. Overall, we care about finding ways to limit the long-term negative consequences of obesity, and the problem applies heavily in Michigan.

  2. Initial Brainstorming: Before conducting any research, we began with some preliminary brainstorming to give ourselves an idea of where we would look for information. Developing a clear plan of development was vital to our staying on task and seeking out relevant content. Initially, we knew our general approach would involve using education to chip away at the larger scale obesity dilemma, but we did not exactly know how to do so specifically. Having a sense of where we were moving was helpful nonetheless.

  3. Researching the Problem: Once we determined that childhood obesity would be our area of emphasis, we looked to research the topic thoroughly. Learning about the problem was a crucial early step, as we examined statistics related to prevalence and growth over time. For example, we discovered not only that the problem persists on a national level, but also that Michigan has the 13th highest childhood obesity rate in the US. Next, we assessed some of the most common consequences. Childhood obesity has shown high correlation with obesity into adulthood, which can cause various health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Cases of obesity can be severe, and working to mitigate the negative impacts should be an urgent concern. Next we researched the highest contributing factors, which include diet, physical activity, psychology, sleep, environment, socioeconomic status, genetics, and medical conditions (many more). We also researched current Michigan legislation that was relevant to the proposal. Senate Bill No. 218, Section 8-122 got us thinking about potential policy that would be similar.

  4. Thought Consolidation: After gathering all of this new information related to our proposal, we started to bring our thoughts together toward some solutions. Naturally, we discussed some immediate changes that could be made to combat the obesity problem within schools, such as limiting sugary beverage access, restricting advertising, and engaging in other preventative measures. While these are definitely tangible approaches, we realized that an educational policy would best prepare students for real world challenges. We understood that a reallocation of educational funding dollars would be difficult, but such would likely be necessary to bring our proposal to life.

  5. Obtaining Consultations & Opinions: Speaking with experts, topic coordinators, and other members of the caucus shaped our proposal and provided us with greater direction. Our three chosen consultations each offered us consistent advice and support throughout the proposal process. There was no consensus opinion, which forced us to do our own independent thinking, and these experts challenged our thoughts and helped us in assessing feasibility. The topic coordinators provided essential oversight during the process, as they continually checked on our work and progress, giving us new things to think about. Lastly, feedback from other members of the caucus has proven useful, and checking out other proposals allowed us to notice flaws in our own work.

  6. Re-Evaluation: After gathering all of this useful feedback, we needed to take a closer look at the feasibility of our proposal, and we needed to narrow our ideas. Consolidating our three early possible solutions into one cohesive proposal was the product of our efforts to reevaluate. While we had to cut ties with some ideas (i.e. classes for middle school students), this was a necessary part of our process. We now believe we have a proposal that presents a concise, feasible solution.

  Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Adam and Justin emphasized making this proposal process a cohesive team effort. Both authors had interest in working toward solutions for the obesity epidemic, but initial research was not conducted jointly. Adam, being enrolled in a health and fitness course, spent time researching the major causes and consequences of obesity in order to get a full understanding of the dilemma. Justin spent his time researching statistics related to prevalence and presence in Michigan specifically. However, both members always worked together, and constantly checked in on each other’s work to guarantee that every piece of information had mutual approval. Work online through Google Drive made this process seamless. In terms of the media artifact, as mentioned, Adam focussed on the causes and consequences while Justin delved into prevalence data. In doing so, both members saw the value of education as a combative measure, so the final piece of the media artifact was done together. Discovering the current state of health education and proposing broader solutions were a complete team effort. In terms of the prospectus, Justin spent time looking into cost feasibility, and he initiated contact with one of our main consultations, Mr. Steve Angelotti. Adam looked into seeing what our tangible proposal would entail, and he initiated contact with our two other valuable consultations in Dr. Elliot B. Barsh and Dr. Stephanie Hirschberg. Nonetheless, Adam and Justin were both heavily involved in all consultation-based discussions, and both spent time transcribing and analyzing the conversations in updating the proposal. Adam and Justin both attended meetings with TC Orian Shkrobut and MSC instructor Rachel Kuck to narrow and enhance the quality of the proposal. In terms of the three potential solutions and efforts on the final proposal, Adam and Justin avoided breaking up the work too much to ensure the proposal was focused and cogent.

  ===FORMAL PROPOSAL===

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

  Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS: Michigan has the 13th highest childhood obesity rate in the US.

WHEREAS: Michigan’s current childhood obesity rate is 14.2%, compared to the national average of 13.9%.

WHEREAS: Childhood obesity has shown high correlation with obesity into adulthood, which can cause various health problems such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.

WHEREAS: Estimated medical costs of obesity in 2008 in Michigan were approximately $3.1 billion.

WHEREAS: Physical Education is only a tiny component (1-credit) of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, the current state-mandated curriculum. Physical education and nutritional education are both 0.5 credits each, and the physical education portion of the curriculum can be replaced with “district approved extra-curricular activities involving physical activities”. It is tied with “Visual, Performing and Applied Arts” for the least amount of credits in the MMC.

(Add more "Whereas" clauses if necessary.)

  Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. That the state of Michigan amends the Physical Education portion of the Michigan Merit Curriculum, increasing the requirement from one-credit to two-credits. This increase will entail a required in-depth nutrition course in the 9th grade that promotes healthy dietary choices, introduces new physical activity exercises, and teaches students to be wiser consumers. Revising the course will cost approximately $45,000-$50,000, as described in the ‘costs and funding’ section of our proposal.

2. Increase the amount of funding for physical education in public schools. This funding will go towards retraining teachers who will instruct these new courses, as well as developing class curriculums, buying necessary equipment, and other miscellaneous spending that would come from this increase. This funding increase will total to about $12.75 million per year (breakdown available in the ‘costs and funding’ section)

3. Increase the amount of “free play” time for students, as opposed to “organized play” like travel teams and varsity teams. This entails an increase in both in-school “recess” time and after-school physical activities like recreational sports and intramural leagues. The funding increase for new sporting equipment, field maintenance, etc. will equal to $4.5 million per year.

4. Implement a provision that requires public high schools to send out daily morning texts that describe the cafeteria’s menu with in-depth nutritional information. The nutritional information will be given by the third-party food service provider and the schools will be responsible for reaching out to students.

(Add more "Resolved" clauses if necessary.)

  Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. One reasonable argument against this proposal is that it is simply too expensive. There is no denying that certain costs are inevitable here, despite our efforts to limit unnecessary funding. Recruiting nutritional consultants and experts, buying new textbooks (and other class materials), training current teachers, and purchasing physical activity equipment make this proposal a serious investment. Given the high level of inequality in the state of Michigan as it pertains to educational funding, we must be cognizant of these notable costs.

2. Another reasonable argument against this proposal is that we can better allocate our educational funding dollars. In other words, the opportunity cost of our initiative might be too great to justify moving forward. While our proposal directly targets a national dilemma that strongly manifests itself within Michigan (obesity and health for students), one can make the case for other topics being more important. For example, high schools should absolutely prioritize traditional academics, so many can argue that this needs to be where our resources are concentrated. The overwhelming, increased academic competition as manifested by AP classes, IB programs, and other college-preparatory courses cannot be understated, and it is important that we improve the quality of general scholastic education.

3. One final reasonable argument against this proposal is that it may be challenging to see immediate positive feedback. In our conversation with Steve Angelotti, he said: “[the benefits of nutrition education] is not something that happens immediately, it’s something down the road. And when you have tight resources, things down the road kind of take a backseat to trying to take care of what you’re dealing with right now.” In this sense, the benefits may come down the road. Improving health and fitness is not a metric that can be measured too well in the short-term, unlike test performance and academic standards. Therefore, it may be challenging to persuade opponents that this is a worthy investment. Introducing a new class means taking time away from other academic courses that may be more tangibly related to performance.

  Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

In order to expand the physical and nutritional guidelines in the Michigan Merit Curriculum, we will have to bring in experts and professionals in the fields of health and nutrition. We want to employ 5 nutritional consultants on this project for a diversity of opinions. According to Glassdoor, nutritional consultants are paid roughly $740/week (pro-rated), and we anticipate that we will have to pay them a premium, so they would cost roughly $1000/week. We anticipate that the drafting process should take no longer than 12 weeks, which comes to a total cost of about $60,000 for the entire process.

Since there is a pre-existing requirement for physical and nutritional education in public high schools, many schools already have adequate staffing for physical education and nutrition teachers. Many schools will not need to hire additional teachers to fulfill the increased requirements, as that would be both costly and unnecessary.

That being said, we will need to allocate funding to train current physical education and nutrition teachers in order to familiarize them with the new material and guidelines. There will also be increased spending on materials such as textbooks, workbooks, and other miscellaneous class materials for the proposed nutritional education class. We estimate this to cost $100 per 9th grade student, per year. Textbooks alone cost between $50-$100, but they do not need to be repurchased every year. Since nutrition is a constantly changing subject, the textbooks will have a shorter lifespan - around 4 years or so. That means textbooks would cost about $25 per student, per year. We also estimated a cost of $50 per-pupil to properly train and familiarize physical education and nutrition teachers to teach the new materials. A portion of this money will also go towards paying the teachers a higher salary to compensate for their extra work. The other $25 per-pupil increase will go towards miscellaneous items. According to the NCES, there were about 127,500 9th graders enrolled in Michigan public high schools in 2014. This means that the total budget increase for the education portion of the program would be $12.75 million per year.

We will also require new sporting equipment for the increased recess and after-school “free play” time, such as basketballs, footballs, frisbees, and other sporting goods. We believe that an additional $5000 per high school, per year, would be reasonable for sporting equipment. This cost would also account for the maintenance of facilities such as gyms, tennis courts, football courts, etc. According to the NCES, there are about 900 public high schools in the state of Michigan, which means that this would cost an additional $4.5 million.

In total, our proposal will cost the state of Michigan approximately $17.3 million per year plus an upfront cost of $60,000. While this may seem like a large number at first, it is paltry compared to the massive $12.3 billion state-funded portion of the School Aid budget - 0.14%, to be exact. One way to fund this program would be to instigate a provision that mandates money to be set aside for nutritional and physical education only. This would come out of the $9.1 billion per-pupil foundation allowance, which is slated to increase by $150 million in 2018 under Governor Snyder’s budget. With the budget increase, funding our program would be feasible and will not draw away funds from other programs that may also be important to public high schools.

Sources:

https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/nutrition-consultant-salary-SRCH_KO0,20.htm

https://gcsionline.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/SnyderBudgetPresentationFY2018_020817-1.pdf

https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_203.40.asp

https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/schoolsearch/school_list.asp?Search=1&InstName=&SchoolID=&Address=&City=&State=26&Zip=&Miles=&County=&PhoneAreaCode=&Phone=&DistrictName=&DistrictID=&SchoolType=1&SchoolType=2&SchoolType=3&SpecificSchlTypes=all&IncGrade=12&LoGrade=-1&HiGrade=-1

  References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

Health Consequences of Obesity in Youth: Childhood Predictors of Adult Disease

Michigan Merit Curriculum

Childhood Obesity in Michigan

CDC Statistic on Michigan Childhood Obesity

CDC Statistic on US Childhood Obesity

A Randomized Controlled Trial of a Community-Based Nutrition Education Program for Low-Income Parents

Michigan Physical Education and Physical Activity Survey 2014

10 Tricks Food Marketers Use to Make You Buy

Pros and Cons: Structured Play vs. Free Play

All Work and No Play: Why Your Kids are More Anxious, Depressed - The Atlantic

The decline of play in preschoolers - and the rise in sensory issues - Washington Post

Nutrition Consultant Salary - Glassdoor

Governor Snyder's 2018 Michigan Budget

Number of Public High School Students in Michigan

Number of Public High Schools in Michigan

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Total votes: 30

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