KNAU and Arizona News
10:20 am
Thu December 15, 2005

Panel takes up physical education in AZ schools

Phoenix – Right now there is no requirement for students to have any phys ed classes at all. Some schools do. And some schools do not. Rep. Mark Anderson tried to get the Legislature to enact some sort of mandate earlier this year, without success. But he was able to put together a panel of educators, parents, lawmakers and health professionals to figure out what makes sense. What they came up with was the idea of 90 minutes a week, with at least half of that time in actual physical activity and the balance in textbook learning about health issues. Anderson conceded that's not much. But he said it at least sets some minimum standards. One issue not addressed by the panel is going to be cost, with no one having any idea how much more money taxpayers will have to come up with to fund the programs.

(It may be that as we learn what the costs are we may have to scale it back or even, like the governor's doing with all-day kindergarten, maybe phase it in over a longer period of time in order to deal with the cost factor. I'd say that's the model of how you do
something. You at least get it started and then you implement it as you can afford it.)

The panel's proposal actually includes more than that 90 minutes of physical education. Committee members said the Legislature should require schools to incorporate physical activity into the rest of the day,ranging from three to five minute breaks to stretch and
jump around every hour to time to play at recess and lunch breaks. Sen. Barbara Leff said the whole proposal may get some static from school officials who believe that devoting more time to physical education will mean less time for academics -- and lower scores for their
students on the required AIMS achievement tests. But Leff said that's not necessarily the case.

(When children get to blow off some of that energy they actually get to learn better. So I just think that once it starts I think people are going to see that children are able to absorb more. I think we'll have far fewer kids on Ritalin and other drugs if they have more time to be running around.)

Governor Napolitano was at a conference Wednesday to explore ways of dealing with the issues of health and obesity. But even in the middle of that discussion, the governor sidestepped the question of whether she believes requiring physical education in school is a good idea.

(I do know that as we have focused more and more on AIMS and AIMS-related curriculum, things like phys ed have dropped off the table. And that is one of the many factors leading to this epidemic of childhood obesity and so forth. So whether it should be mandatory or not, let's listen. But should kids be out exercising? Yeah.)

The final plan will be presented to lawmakers when they reconvene next month. In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.