Friday, April 29, 2016

Bronx Health REACH Applauds Mayor de Blasio’s FY17 Budget Allocation for Physical Education in NYC Elementary Schools

Bronx Health REACH is thrilled about Mayor de Blasio’s budget allocation for physical education in NYC elementary schools.  As Comptroller Stringer mentioned in hisDropping the Ball report, many NYC schools have not been meeting the state mandates for physical education, due to a number of challenges such as insufficient numbers of certified physical education instructors, limited training for existing teachers, and space constraints. Now, with this investment into physical education for NYC’s schoolchildren, Bronx Health REACH and the Phys Ed for All Coalition can work together with the NYC Department of Education Office of School Wellness to identify ways to fill the gaps in schools lacking Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAP), which includes physical education, before and after school physical activity, active recess, classroom physical activity breaks, and parent and community engagement.

In 1893, Thomas D. Wood, pioneer in health and physical education, stated: “The great thought of physical education is not the education of the physical nature, but the relation of physical training to complete education, and then the effort to make the physical contribute its full share to the life of the individual.”

Public schools are responsible for preparing pupils to become complete citizens that will propel our society towards new heights. As part of becoming well educated and self-directed citizens, there must be knowledge, skills, capacities, and values along with the enthusiasm to maintain a healthy lifestyle into adulthood. For many Bronx schools burdened with the effects of childhood obesity, children need to learn at an early age how to practice, and adopt a healthy lifestyle, eating fruits and vegetables, exercising daily, and coping with stress. These are life skills that will be a mainstay throughout the course of an individual’s life. Like the right to education, the right to a complete and effective physical education is a right of every student.

Bronx Health REACH has partnered with over 20 schools in districts 7, 8, 9, and 12 in the South Bronx to more closely examine wellness policies and environments. We have discovered in School Districts 7 and 12, districts which have not yet received intensive support on CSPAP implementation from the Department of Education, the impact of the PE deficit.  In District 7, public schools face the highest rates of childhood obesity in New York City.  Several schools are unable to offer daily physical education because of the challenges of co-location, declines in quality of equipment from wear and tear, and the lack of adequate budgeting to not only fund new programs but to increase students’ access to activity before and after school, and most importantly—meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s standards for daily recommended physical activity.

Schools in District 7 have responded by partnering with community based organizations such as the National Football League’s Fuel Up to Play 60 initiative, Cookshop, and others. However, the need for integrated physical education programs to support wellness initiatives in schools is sorely lacking. These schools will greatly benefit from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approval of increased spending for physical education programs in elementary schools.

In District 12, co-location is equally challenging for both students and physical education instructors. Furthermore, one school has outdated facilities that cannot serve a campus with over 500 students from grades kindergarten through eighth grade. A physical education instructor who asked to remain anonymous paints a picture of the situation, “Health and wellness are not taken seriously in my school—it is essentially an afterthought. This has been the mindset for years and this—I believe—begins with a lack of commitment at the city level.” Another PE Instructor residing in upstate New York agrees, “Yes, the funding [for physical education at their school] is much less than where I live—I think that contributes to how healthy students are.”

With strides made in the PE4All Campaign and Mayor de Blasio’s receptivity to fund physical education, Bronx Health REACH and the Phys Ed for All Coalition hope health and wellness begins to be treated as a right and made a high priority in our schools.

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