This is long over-due! -Angela
Senator wants to put physical back in education
Proposal would mandate daily physical activity daily through eighth grade
By Corrie MacLaggan
Friday, February 09, 2007
State Sen. Jane Nelson, a Lewisville Republican who once taught sixth grade, remembers that when her students came back from physical education, they were alert and ready to learn.
A legislative proposal Nelson filed Thursday would mandate at least 30 minutes a day of "moderate or vigorous" physical activity for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Recess wouldn't count. The plan would also require twice-a-year physical fitness assessments for students in grades K-12.
"Teachers know what happens when kids get stuck behind a desk all day," Nelson, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, told reporters Thursday. "They get restless, they aren't focused on learning, and, most importantly, it is downright unhealthy."
In a state where more than a third of schoolchildren are overweight, Nelson says it's critical for Texas students to have daily physical education, as they did until 1995, when lawmakers overhauled education laws to strengthen academics. Texas schools now require elementary students to have 135 minutes of weekly physical education and for middle school students to have P.E. twice a week or a total of two semesters.
Nelson's office could not immediately provide information on the proposal's cost, but a spokesman said some private companies have shown interest in investing in the project.
Diana Everett, executive director of the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, supports the proposal but worries that without money for additional physical-education teachers, schools would "cram 150 fifth-graders in a gym and call it P.E."
The proposed fitness assessment — which would measure aerobic capacity, body composition, muscle strength, endurance and flexibility — would help education officials better understand how students' physical health affects academic achievement and dropout rates, Nelson said.
Nelson's plan has 23 co-authors in the 31-member state Senate, and state Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, who is chairman of the House Public Education Committee, is sponsoring an identical version of the bill in his chamber.
As Nelson unveiled details Thursday, she and Eissler were joined by some of Texas' top health and education gurus, including Dr. Kenneth Cooper of the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Paul Carrozza of Austin's RunTex and Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley.