Thursday, June 18, 2015

Taking Action for Physical Education

Recent efforts to increase student access to physical education in NYC public schools and obtain data on schools compliance with state mandates for PE have been met with good news: The Department of Education has committed to spending $6.6 million to hire 50 more PE teachers and "conduct a comprehensive needs assessment to address barriers and move schools toward full PE compliance." As part of the city budget, this provision in will address school compliance with federal regulations requiring equal access to sports for girls. School wellness and physical education advocates celebrate this success as a first step to improve the quantity and quality of physical education provided to students in NYC public schools. Still, there is much more to be done in order to make significant changes.

In an effort to work toward these changes, Bronx Health REACH has collaborated with the Phys. Ed. For All Coalition, in partnership with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Women’s City Club of NYC, The American Heart Association, and many others to draw attention to the disparities in PE programming our city’s children currently receive, as detailed in Comptroller Scott Stringer’s recent report, Dropping the Ball: Disparities in Physical Education in NYC Public Schools.” According to the report, more than 400,000 students in NYC public schools do not have access to either a full-time, certified PE teacher, designated gym space, or nearby park for outdoor fitness activities. The Phys. Ed. For All Coalition has been crafting legislation for Intro 644 — a reporting bill that would require the Department of Education to track and report data on which schools are adhering to state mandates for physical education, including the required amount of time and certified teachers dedicated to PE and other demographic information. While the DOE is concerned that this bill could place an undue burden on individual schools, it would bring us one step closer to being able to identify which schools require additional assistance. Such transparency would ensure that all students receive the quality PE program they are entitled to by law.

Recent highlights of this campaign have included a press conference and oversight hearing led by City Councilmembers Dromm and Crowley, and Bronx Health REACH staff members Charmaine Ruddock and Kelly Moltzen featured in the media. Our coalition is optimistic about the future of the reporting bill and the impact it would have on the health of our city’s children. Given the evidence that high quality physical education is linked with reduced risk for obesity, enhanced focus and memory, and improved academic outcomes in children, increasing access to PE could have important implications for the overall health and success of future generations.

You can view NY1 coverage on Intro 644 here.

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