Education advocates find compromise on physical education standards
Friday, April 14, 2017
Ten years ago, the Oregon Legislature set standards for physical education time 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.
As part of the Division 22 requirements that schools must follow, penalties or sanctions could be imposed on schools not in compliance. No other Oregon course has a minutes requirement.
On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Education heard Senate Bill 4, a bill to change those requirements. Since 2007, districts have struggled to provide staff and facilities for all standards. As amended, Senate Bill 4 would give schools more time and flexibility to reach the standards.
The amended bill would provide a phased-in approach, with 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.
The amendments to the bill are the result of nine months of hard-fought negotiations, and they have the support of PE advocates, the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators, the Oregon Education Association, and OSBA.
Although there is consensus among PE and education advocates on the amendments, for some these changes are a bitter pill to swallow. Senate President Peter Courtney, who led the fight for the standards 10 years ago, demonstrated his irritation while testifying Tuesday. He acknowledged the long and cooperative effort to craft the amendments, but he wouldn’t commit to supporting them yet.
“I’m very torn on this issue,” he testified. “On one hand, I feel that 10 years is more than long enough. ... On the other hand, 90 percent of schools losing their standards this July might be a bit extreme.”
The 2007 law requires the Legislature to make a biennial report on progress toward goals. The report in 2009 said districts needed 174 facilities, such as gyms and recreation areas, to provide the required PE minutes for all kids. The 2017 report estimated districts needed 226 new facilities to meet the requirements. These challenges will remain whether or not SB 4 comes into law, and one of the key points of the amendments includes a process for finding ways to implement PE standards, said Christina Bodamer, American Heart Association government relations director.
“There are ways to implement this and do it the right way without throwing all 52 cards in the air,” said Bodamer. “We just have to get all the right people at the table.”
In testimony, COSA Deputy Executive Director of Policy and Advocacy Morgan Allen summed up the amendments.
“These amendments” Allen said, “reflect a compromise that recognizes the current fiscal challenges for schools and offer a reasonable path to ensuring that Oregon students receive recommended levels of instruction in Physical Education.”
Senate Bill 4 is expected to be amended and moved out of the Senate Committee on Education no later than April 18. OSBA will monitor the bill.