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In Virginia's General Assembly, HB 1644 has passed the House and SB 966 has passed the Senate. These bills will require 150 minutes of physical education each week for public school students in kindergarten though eighth-grade, with a mandated policy for high schools to achieve the same goal.
For the last several years, school boards have been laying off teachers because of limited resources, and class sizes have increased in most major subject areas.
Both Culpeper and Orange counties have eliminated instrumental string classes from their curriculum. Under these circumstances, is it prudent to spend limited tax dollars on additional physical education?
Virginia's current physical education program is already a major part of the curriculum. Elementary schools have mandatory physical education classes, plus recess. In secondary schools, physical education courses are an elective at every grade level.
If physical education becomes a required subject in all grades, it will have unintended negative consequences for Virginia's public schools. Without extending the school day, more physical education means less of something else.
While this legislation means well, it could harm more children than it helps. Because music and art are already required subjects in elementary grades, additional time for physical education will result in less time for reading, writing, and arithmetic.
In secondary schools, if physical education becomes mandatory, it will mean fewer students will be able to participate in foreign language, art, band, chorus, keyboarding, technology, remedial, and gifted classes.
Because our country is currently enamored of physical fitness, it is understandable why this legislation would be popular. But just because it is popular does not mean there should be a change in our curriculum.
If physical education was required each year, most students would spend more time in physical education during their four years of high school than they currently spend in history, science, or mathematics. Do we really consider physical education more important than history, science and mathematics? I think not.
If lawmakers do not rethink their position, the governor should veto this well-intended but misguided legislation.
The writer is a member of the