Fairfax urges McDonnell to veto PE requirement for schoolchildren
Fairfax County is asking Gov. Bob McDonnell to veto a bill that requires all children in public elementary and middle schools to participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week to help fight the growing problem of childhood obesity.
School officials say the requirement -- to be implemented in 2014 -- would require them to extend the school day, lead to cuts in arts and music classes or increase costs because additional teachers would be needed.
"Mandating a specific amount of time for physical education, particularly given the many other mandates and accountability requirements faced by our students and schools, will force school divisions into a very difficult choice,'' they wrote. "To implement the requirement, school divisions can either incur a very large unfunded local expense to hire new physical education teachers or extend the school day to preserve currently available instructional time or they can reduce instructional time that is currently dedicated to core academic subjects, non-PE resource classes."
A spokesman for Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said he would review the legislation before deciding whether to sign it into law.
The change would be most significant in kindergarten through fifth grade, where experts estimate that fewer than 10 percent of schools in Virginia meet the standard.
In Fairfax County, the state's largest school district, students at 139 elementary schools are required to take at least 60 minutes of physical education a week.
Liz Payne, Fairfax's coordinator for health and physical education, said this year's legislation will mean elementary students will have to more than double their physical activity. But, she said, it will not affect middle schools, where students take more than 150 minutes of physical education a week.
The bill does not require daily activity, nor does it allow recess to be included in the 150 minutes.
The Virginia Education Association, which represents thousands of teachers across the state, opposes the measure but supports the goal to provide more physical activity for children.
Robley S. Jones, the VEA's director of government affairs, said schools' budgets have been cut by 15 percent since 2008 and are being asked to do more. He said that if the state wants to implement the program correctly, it should provide districts with money for additional teachers or facilities. "There is a cost to this," he said.
In 2008, state legislators passed a bill recommending 150 minutes of activity in schools, but most did not abide by the recommendation.
| February 25, 2011; 3:10 PM ET
Categories: Anita Kumar, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Robert F. McDonnell, State Senate
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