Asthma is a leading cause of chronic school absenteeism, a medical condition that can seriously hinder a student’s academic success. Students miss 14 million days of school every year due to asthma, according to the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program.
Thanks to the advocacy efforts of the Childhood Asthma Leadership Coalition, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Lung Association, and the leadership of United States Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Casey (D-PA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Charles Schumer (D-NY), many more children suffering from asthma – a treatable, but un-curable condition – can lead active and productive lives in the classroom
The recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes a provision that allows school districts to use federal education block grants to pay for the development and implementation of school asthma management plans, the key component Sen. Gillibrand’s School Asthma Management Plan Act.
There’s no doubt that schools can play a stronger role in asthma management for students, and new federal funding to create asthma management plans will allow schools to properly, quickly and efficiently respond to children suffering from the effects of asthma at school.
Several other provisions of the law provide vital support to students who are forced to miss valuable class time due to asthma. ESSA now requires schools with high numbers of low-income students to include “chronic absenteeism” as an indicator on school report cards. This provision represents the first time that a federal education law includes a requirement to measure attendance. This is significant, because chronic absence is a crucial indicator of student and school success.
By tracking absences, school districts will have the tools to identify which students are missing school due to asthma and be able to provide them with services to keep them in the classroom.
The Department of Education will allocate grants based on needs, thereby giving money to the schools that need it the most.
Because asthma is one of the leading causes of chronic absenteeism, we think these provisions will go a long way in supporting the academic success of students with asthma.