It's not iPads, SMART boards or after school activity programs that the majority of U.S. schools are struggling to provide, it's something much more basic, and somewhat shocking:
Access to water.
Sparked by a new federal requirement that all public schools provide access to free drinking water at lunchtime, administrators are having trouble finding the funds in the midst of widespread budget cuts, MSNBC's Vitals reported.
Almost a year ago, President Barack Obama signed the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
As well as including the free water provision, the act also aimed to provide healthy meal options to children from households where food is harder to come by. From the White House's Child Nutrition Fact Sheet:
"Over 31 million children receive meals through the school lunch program and many children receive most, if not all, of their meals at school. With over seventeen million children living in food insecure households and one out of every three children in America now considered overweight or obese, schools often are on the front lines of our national challenge to combat childhood obesity and improve children’s overall health."
Despite the legislation's September deadline, some schools have said they simply can't afford to comply. One west coast school district said in June that it will have 10 schools in noncompliance without $300,000 in additional funding, California Watch reported.
In August, Rita Sudman offered a different solution that wouldn't cost school districts as much money.
"Why don’t children just bring water to school in refillable bottles?" Sudman told California water news blog Aquafornia. "The reason often is that many schools don’t allow children to bring liquids into their schools, fearing something harmful may have been put in the container. In Germany children are allowed to fill reusable water bottles at school and store them there."
Either way, noncompliance to the act could result in consequences, Deputy Regional Administrator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service Jesus Mendoza told California watch.
"Corrective action would depend on the situation," Mendoza said. "If the district says, 'I don't want to be in compliance because I don't believe in enforcing this requirement,' fiscal action would be possible."