Health and learning are two sides of the same coin. When students are healthy in mind and body, they miss less school, are better able to focus, and are more likely to graduate. And, students who graduate from high school are more likely to be healthy throughout the rest of their lives and contribute to their communities. Health Happens in Schools works closely with education leaders, parents, and students throughout California to create positive learning environments where students can thrive. That means healthy school food and beverages, making exercise part of every school day, and promoting social-emotional health that leads to improved behavior and greater resilience.

California’s new school funding law, called the Local Control Funding Formula, presents an unprecedented opportunity to embrace student health as an essential strategy for school success. The law increases funds to school districts serving students with the greatest needs and spells out new measurements of success that are directly related to student health and wellness.

The California Endowment is working with educators, students, and communities to carry out the new law with student health in mind. By focusing on health as a strategy for student success, we can keep more kids in school and on track for a bright and productive future.



Too many children come to school struggling under the burden of poor health.

More than half of California children report surviving traumatic experiences, such as living with violence, neglect, or emotional abuse. Research has found childhood trauma to be a top predictor of school suspensions, attendance, and academic failure. The overuse of school suspensions in California – which numbered more than 500,000 in the 2013-14 school year – can be seen as a sign of the extent to which children are unable to cope with the impact of trauma that science has shown derails the healthy development of young bodies and minds.

In California, more than half the state’s children live in poverty and 58 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced price school meals. For too many kids, the meals they eat at school are their primary source of nutrition.

Nearly one-third of California’s children are overweight or obese, increasing their risk of developing serious health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Federal guidelines say children should get at least one hour of physical activity every day, but only 29 percent of California’s children ages 5-11 meet this recommendation. Drinking water instead of sugary beverages is key to reducing obesity, and that’s why federal and state laws require that fresh, free drinking water be served with every school meal. But one fourth of California schools don’t comply with this law, according to a 2011 survey.


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After years of budget cuts, California is once again investing in its youngest residents through a historic new school funding law that sends more dollars to school districts attended by students with the greatest needs. School districts serving The Endowment’s 14 Building Healthy Communities neighborhoods are predicted to gain $5 billion more a year once the school funding law is fully implemented in 2020.

In partnership with youth, parents, educators, and community leaders, The California Endowment advocates for decision-makers to elevate student health as they decide on policies and programs under the new law.

We support advocacy for social-emotional health approaches that improve behavior, create a welcoming school culture, and build resilience. We support positive school discipline strategies that keep kids in school and we seek to raise awareness about the impact of childhood trauma that stands in the way of success for too many kids. And we support better physical health through nutritious school meals, by providing fresh free drinking water, and by making exercise part of every school day.

Our Work

Our Work

The California Endowment’s Health Happens in Schools campaign promotes the essential role of health in student success, and advocates for positive learning environments where all students thrive.

Health Happens in Schools focuses on three areas:

  • Promoting social-emotional health, including positive school discipline and addressing the impact of childhood trauma.
  • Improving the physical health of students through nutritious school meals, fresh drinking water, and daily exercise.
  • Taking full advantage of the state’s new school funding law to advocate for student health as a strategy for student success.

Together with youth, parents, community leaders, and educators, we can advance health as a key strategy for every school to help ensure the success of California’s young people.