FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 13, 2004
AUSTIN, TX--Today Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. filed Senate Bill 25, which will give qualifying public schools financial incentives for exemplary performance in creating healthier campuses through health and physical education programs. This bill is a continuation of Sen. Lucio's efforts during the 78th legislative session to combat childhood obesity.
"I've worked closely with Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs to develop the Recognizing Extraordinary Achievement in Children's Health, or REACH, program because we both wanted our state's schools rewarded for encouraging young people to eat healthier and to engage in regular physical activity," said Sen. Lucio. "When children feel well, their academic performance increases, due partly to fewer absences and a greater ability to concentrate and be more alert."
The incentives program is voluntary and will be administered by the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) through its Food and Nutrition Division. TDA will consult with the Texas Education Agency, regional education service centers, local school health advisory councils (SHACs) and other appropriate entities in administering the grants. A general appropriations request of $12 million will allow the program to be administered statewide.
"Sen. Lucio has long been a staunch advocate of ensuring that our children have a healthy environment in our schools. This bill, REACH, will provide an incentive to our schools to be proactive with nutrition, education, physical activity and coordination with parents. I applaud this important effort," said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs.
An eligible school may qualify for the program based on its cumulative health performance score. The score will be a compilation of:
- The school's School Health Index score (an instrument developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that assesses a school's physical activity and nutrition policies and programs).
- Additional points based on a school's percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunches.
- Other criteria adopted by TDA.
As funds are available, awards will be based on health performance score, school size and grade level(s).
"Compared to the national average, Texas' obesity statistics are alarmingly high," said Sen. Lucio. "More than 22 percent of fourth graders and 20 percent of eighth graders in Texas are considered obese. REACH will help these students by teaching them sensible nutrition habits and encouraging exercise. It's a strong plan for Texas children."