Senate bill amending physical education requirements faces House scrutiny
Friday, May 5, 2017
The House Education Committee heard a Senate bill Wednesday that would modify requirements for physical education minutes slated to begin next school year.
The Legislature set standards for physical education time in 2007 and gave schools until the 2017-18 school year to comply. The 2007 bill, House Bill 3141, required 150 minutes of physical education per week for elementary school students and 225 minutes per week for middle school students. No other Oregon subject area or course has a minutes requirement.
Senate Bill 4 would change those requirements. Since 2007, districts have struggled to provide staff and facilities for all standards. As amended, SB 4 would give schools more time and flexibility to reach the standards by providing a phased-in approach.
The bill would first allow an initial two-year delay, followed by an elementary implementation over the next two years and finally a middle school requirement. The amended bill would also make a number of technical fixes, allowing for proration of minutes for weeks shortened because of holidays, closures or other losses of school time and creating a “safety valve” that suspends the minutes requirement when funding levels for schools do not meet current service levels.
Sen. Peter Courtney (D-Salem) presented the bill. Courtney, who has served as Senate president since 2003, described why he championed the PE requirement in 2007.
“Regular physical activity is important for our kids. It keeps them healthy, it keeps them happy, and it keeps them engaged,” Courtney testified. “Physical education helps children maintain a healthy weight and build strong bones. It reduces the risk of obesity and related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It has even been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, leading to better mental health.”
Courtney did not hide the disappointment he felt in having to come back to the Legislature, 10 years removed from the passage of the initial bill, to ask for more time for implementation.
“We gave school districts 10 years to implement these requirements. They go into effect this July, and according to a recent review, only 10 percent of Oregon schools are currently meeting these requirements,” he said. “While I am disappointed in these numbers, I also realize that we would be hurting our schools if we let these requirements go into effect in July.”
Rep. Margaret Doherty (D-Tigard), House Education Committee chair, expressed concern with the measure and questioned the need for minimum physical education minutes at all. She said the new minutes would “fall on the backs of classroom teachers” statewide.
OSBA, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, the Oregon Education Association and a variety of education stakeholders and PE advocates joined health and wellness advocates in supporting SB 4. The amended bill represents the result of nine months of hard-fought negotiations.
“It passed the Senate on a 29-0 vote,” testified COSA Deputy Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy Morgan Allen. “We urge your support of this compromise approach to ensuring PE is a key component of a well-rounded public education.”
SB 4 is scheduled for a vote to move it out of the House Education Committee on May 22. OSBA will monitor the bill.