Friday, March 25, 2011

McDonnell Vetoes Physical Education Bill--Follow-up Needed

In a recent post, we questioned the wisdom of a bill passed by the Viriginia legislature to expand the physical education requirements for elementary school children in the Commonwealth.

Governor McDonnell has now vetoed the bill, no doubt because he regularly reads and agrees with the Curmudgeon. (Or perhaps due to furious lobbying from school districts and local governments.)

We agree with the Governor's decision--the bill amounted to a very expensive unfunded mandate from Richmond.

That should not be the end of the matter, however. We would hope that the Governor would either ask the State Board of Education to study the issue, or appoint a commission to do the same. Many of Virginia's school children DO need more physical activity (although obesity is not, fundamentally, an issue of inactivity--it is primarily an issue of over-large serving portions that result in people eating too much food).

The trick is to provide more exercise to those kids who need it, without foisting it on kids who already get plenty (at the expense of other priorities). Some data gathering would be in order. Based on our experience with youth sports programs in Arlington, we'd guess that at least 50 percent of kids, maybe a bit more, are getting a fine amound of exercise, at least through elementary school, as a result of participation in various actitivies that take place outside the school day.

For those not getting enough exercise, one option may be to establish additional programs after school and require children whose parents cannot certify their participation in other sports programs to participate in appropriate activities.

The Arlington Soccer Associaton is experimenting with an after school program aimed at children who do not participate in our more traditional evening/weekend recreational soccer program, to see if we can reach kids who face barriers--such as transportation--to involvement in regular youth sports programs.

It may well be that the Commonwealth could reach those kids who need more physical activity, but at a much lower cost, by specifically identifying them and putting them into appropriate programs AFTER school.

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