Federal Funding Proposed for Physical Education

Wamp, Simmons pump up exercise for school kids. U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., joined by fitness guru Richard Simmons, on unveiled House legislation aimed at making physical education a part of the federal No Child Left Behind education law’s core curriculum. This year Congress must reauthorize the measure, which uses annual standardized tests to hold schools accountable in science and math. He said the lack of physical activity among the nation’s youth is causing childhood obesity to skyrocket and leading to increased cases of type 2 diabetes and other health problems. Nationwide the rate of child-hood obesity has more than tripled for children between ages 6 and 11, according to a 2005 federal government report. Despite these numbers, schools are cutting back on their physical education budgets because of a need for greater investment in math, reading and science, Rep. Wamp said. But he added that students cannot learn those subjects if they are not healthy. The House bill would amend No Child Left Behind to provide a national guideline for minimum standards for health and fitness in schools. It also would require physical education assessments for students starting in the 2009-10 school year. The bill met with some skepticism from congressional lawmakers, but U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., said the addition of physical education is important because there are health and economic costs associated with obesity that cannot be ignored. He said obesity costs the U.S. economy $100 billion each year. Rep. Kind, a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said more fit students would lead to longer attention spans, fewer sick days and higher graduation rates. If enacted the measure would cost $30 million in 2009, $70 million in 2010 and $100 million a year from 2011 through 2013, according to estimates. The bill also would create a best-practices model for schools in the Department of Education and set up a competitive grant program for state agencies seeking to revise their physical education programs. -Edward Lee Pitts, Washington Bureau