School Board Opposes PhysEd Mandate, Governor Agrees

Governor McDonnell Vetoes Unfunded Mandate on Localities

It seems that Richmond does get the message sometimes. On Monday night the Clarke County School Board joined school districts from across the Commonwealth by sending a letter to Governor McDonnell asking that he veto legislation imposing new requirements for increased physical education.

Apparently the Governor got the letter.

Governor McDonnell has vetoed a controversial bill that would have mandated an additional 150 minutes of exercise time to each school week

McDonnell: “While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond.   In the fight against childhood obesity and preventable disease, we all have a role to play. Government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem go away. Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court.”

In a letter from Clarke County School Board Chairperson Barbara Lee (Millwood), Lee told McDonnel that the proposed legislation (SB 966) to force local school districts to provide 150 minutes of physical education per week for all students in elementary and middle school by the year 2014, would “present significant challenges at all levels”.

“On behalf of the Clarke County School Board, I respectfully ask that you veto this legislation. If you are unable to veto this yet again unfunded mandate, I ask that you amend the legislation to include physical activity, such as in-school recess and after-school sports, to fulfill the requirement for the 150 minutes” Lee’s letter said.

The letter was sent by express carrier at the end of Monday night’s school board meeting in order to arrive at the governor’s office Tuesday morning.

In addition to Clarke County Public Schools, the proposed state mandate was strongly opposed by local school districts and teachers concerned about the financial impact of its implementation.

In February the Fairfax County School Board came out against the legislation and was cited by the governor in his reasoning for the veto. The Fairfax County School Board urged McDonnell to veto SB966 via a letter to the governor on February 24. The letter stated that in order to establish the extra time for physical activity, schools would be required to either hire new physical education teachers, extend the school day, or reduce instructional time currently dedicated to core academics.

“Education officials advised me that this measure would cost them tens of millions of dollars. Fairfax County estimates the fiscal impact at $18-24 million; Chesterfield County places their potential costs at $6.9 million,” said McDonnell. “In addition, this mandated time for physical education would exceed the time dedicated to any other subject in our public school system, and potentially cut into crucial time in the classroom needed for instruction in math, science, history and reading.   Our local school districts are facing tough budgetary times, and we simply cannot ask them now to incorporate an expensive new policy with no new funding.”

However, not everyone was pleased by the governor’s veto promise.  On Thursday a coalition of health organizations protested the governor’s actions. The Virginia Chapters of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the YMCA’s of Virginia issued the following statement.

“As Virginia’s leading public health organizations, we are deeply disappointed that Gov. McDonnell has vetoed SB 966 and missed an unprecedented opportunity to help address childhood obesity, a pressing and costly public health crisis.”

“This important legislation would have required 150 minutes of physical education each week, but did not require schools to hire additional instructors nor build new facilities. Some school districts in Virginia, including Virginia Beach, have shown that they can offer even more than 150 minutes of physical education each week within their existing budgets and without a negative impact on education in other subjects.”

“Today, nearly one in three Virginia children is overweight or obese, and Gov. McDonnell has missed an ideal chance to show significant leadership on this problem by vetoing this legislation.”

Barbara Lee’s letter pointed out the additional minutes school day devoted to physical education would impose additional limits on instructional time in other subject areas like reading, mathematics and technology and would require hiring additional physical education instructors as well as purchasing new equipment.

Speaking about his decision Governor McDonnell noted, “In my Inaugural Address I stated very clearly that Washington does not always know better than Richmond, and, equally, that Richmond does not always know better than Fairfax or Galax. I have long opposed significant unfunded mandates passed from one level of government to another. Thus, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation.”

“While the objective of this legislation is laudable, the proposed means of accomplishment is problematic.   Education officials advised me that this measure would cost them tens of millions of dollars. Fairfax County estimates the fiscal impact at $18-24 million; Chesterfield County places their potential costs at $6.9 million,” the Governor remarked. “In addition, this mandated time for physical education would exceed the time dedicated to any other subject in our public school system, and potentially cut into crucial time in the classroom needed for instruction in math, science, history and reading.   Our local school districts are facing tough budgetary times, and we simply cannot ask them now to incorporate an expensive new policy with no new funding.”

The Governor continued, “While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond.   In the fight against childhood obesity and preventable disease, we all have a role to play. Government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem go away. Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court. We should look for every opportunity to encourage children to turn off the TV and go outside and play.”

The General Assembly will consider the Governor’s veto when it meets the first week of April for the reconvened session.

 

 

 

Comments

  1. My 2 Cents says:

    Well done! This was going to be a disaster.

  2. Mr Mister says:

    “Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court.”

    Well, we all have couches at the house. How many of you have soccer feilds and basketball courts at your house?
    Back in the good old days we had gym class every day for 45 minutes.

    “such as in-school recess and after-school sports, to fulfill the requirement for the 150 minutes” Lee’s letter said.

    Right, because not only are the kids breaking down the doors to get in during school hours, they all will stay afterwards.

    Sounds like a reciepe for lumpy, lazy kids. But hey there is always cup stacking.

    • My 2 Cents says:

      Its not the schools responsibility to keep your kid off the couch! Its the parents…. Maybe if the parents weren’t so lazy themselves…….. HMMMMM

    • Unwelcome Outsider says:

      Don’t be obtuse, Mr Mister. You know as well as everyone else that kids don’t need a field with goalposts to play soccer/football/etc.; they’re perfectly capable of improvising. “That tree is the goal line”, etc.

      And seemingly every third house around here has a freestanding basketball hoop in the driveway.

      But if it’s easier for you to ignore your children and let them sit on your couch instead of tossing them outside for an hour then yeah, you’re going to have lumpy, lazy kids. Remember, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

  3. Time4change says:

    Well most of the elementary schools kids dont even get 30 minutes in recess a day. Some maybe get 10 minutes. I think at least little kids should get some recess time. That’s something I think we could fix right here.

  4. I wonder if it has donned on these folks that if the kids were getting more physical activity during the day (i.e. more recess time, more P.E.) to let off some energy and a little steam, that they might actually do better on the SOL testing and practice testing that the “critical classroom time” is used for. 20 minutes of recess, in a 7 hour day is just not enough time fora 5-7 year old!

  5. I TOTALLY agree with ReachHI. It comes right down to the fact our children need time to exercise (yes, during the school day!). And yes, the students would be better focused if they could run around a bit… a proven fact – seems so simple! And this issue is just the same as so many others that have come to surface… regarding policies and attempts to improve our school systems…. (just skip to third paragraph if you’re as tired of the see-saw as I am!)

    THE SEE SAW: School systems across the country need improvement and our government tries to improve things (ie: “No Child Left Behind”). Standards of Learning are required of every state for every child (that’s good!) Local SOL testing is required but is not properly funded, and time is taken from core subjects that are not being tested (that’s bad!) Public awareness of the need for educational reform and physical fitness is rising (that’s good!) Localities are again asked to pay for the changes (that’s bad). One can go on and on defending each side, money is of course at the root of the problem (as usual), and the American way is for us to all have a voice in making the case for change.

    POSITIVE CHANGE: So, where does that leave us? Yes, our elected officials ARE supposed to bring public issues to light, give guidance and make decisions (that’s why we elect them). Public awareness is the key……localities still have the power to change, and in this case, improve our community.

    SO, perhaps in Clarke County we should agree that all the children in our school system should be required to take Physical Fitness classes as part of the standard curriculum. PE is required in our High School and Elementary Schools, but not in our Middle School. (Amazing a child could go from fifth to ninth grade without ever going outside during the school day, isn’t it?) We’re concerned about how many hours of PE are mandated by the government, yet most people don’t realize Clarke doesn’t even meet the basic Standards of Learning that are required of schools in Virginia.

    Our middle school elective offerings could stand some improvement, and certainly required PE classes, health classes, computer/typing and home economics classes would be great electives to add, since they don’t exist, in addition to the current “choices” of language, music and art of course. These are typical middle school requirements (and elective choices) all over Virginia, based on standards developed by parents, educators and communities as mentioned below:

    “The Standards of Learning (SOL) for Virginia Public Schools describe student learning and achievement expectations in grades K-12 in English, mathematics, science, history/social science, technology, the fine arts, foreign language, health and physical education, and driver education. These standards represent a broad consensus of what parents, classroom teachers, school administrators, academics, and business and community leaders believe schools should teach and students should learn.”
    http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/physical_education/index.shtml

    Check out the SOLs for health and PE sometime. Here’s more from the DOE website:

    Physical education provides students with the knowledge, processes, and skills to become physically educated, physically fit and responsible in their physical activity choices and behaviors for a lifetime. Virginia’s standards for physical education are grouped into five strands: skilled movement, movement principles and concepts, personal fitness, responsible behaviors and physically active lifestyle. The standards in each strand are sequenced to progress in complexity from grade level to grade level.

    BOTTOM LINE: Children need to be physically active to remain mentally alert (thankfully elementary programs support this basic premise, and teachers are able to build recess time into their daily schedules). But ALL students, K-10 should be taking Physical education classes in Clarke County. So be aware, take action, and let’s bring about a change….

  6. O. Springsbury says:

    “not everyone was pleased by the governor’s veto promise. On Thursday a coalition of health organizations protested the governor’s actions. The Virginia Chapters of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the YMCA’s of Virginia issued the following statement”

    Perhaps The Virginia Chapters of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the YMCA’s of Virginia should foot the bill for the extra cost to our county schools that are already having budget shortfalls.