Governor McDonnell – Please Veto the Mandatory PE Bill

UPDATED – see just above the fold.

The bill mandating that public schools provide a minimum number of PE minutes per week to reduce childhood obesity rates has passed the General Assembly and awaits Governor McDonnell’s signature (see SB 966). The bill would require a total of 150 minutes of PE each week for all public school students in grades K – 12, except half day kindergarten students, starting in the Fall of 2014.

Supporters of the bill argue that increased PE time will reduce childhood obesity rates.  Critics of the bill argue that it will be logistically impossible to implement as few elementary schools have dedicated gyms, the funds allocated to implement the bill are insufficient to provide adequate facilities and localities would be left with having to raise taxes or cut academic programs to meet the mandate, and the instructional day is already filled without adding another mandated segment.

We agree with the critics.

As laudable as the goal of reducing childhood obesity is, 30 minutes of PE each day will do little to resolve it.  Our public schools already struggle to provide our children with the basic education they need to be college or career ready.  According to the US Dept of Education, in 2008 23% of Virginia students dropped out of high school before graduating; the nationwide average dropout rate in 2008 was 24.1%.  That puts Virginia schools only slightly above average nationally.  We think our schools already have enough to deal with.

Perhaps more importantly, it is high time we as a society stop looking to the public schools as the means of fixing everything that ills society. Yes, Americans in general are fat and getting fatter, but that’s not the schools fault nor is it the schools job to fix that.   Public schools exist to provide our children with the instruction they need to be able to go to college or enter a career.  They do not exist to reduce teenage pregnancy rates, make people feel better about their lifestyle choices, or lose weight.  Let’s let our schools focus on what they’re supposed to do:  getting our kids college or career ready.

We encourage Governor McDonnell to veto this bill.  You can send the Governor note expressing your desires here.

Oh – for those of you interested, the recorded Yeas and Neas are below.  We also encourage you to contact your state Senator or Representative and let him / her know of your opinion on his / her vote.


March 26, 2011

Governor McDonnell has vetoed SB 966. The bill will return to the General Assembly for consideration when they reconvene in April.   


YEAS–Alexander, Armstrong, BaCote, Barlow, Bell, Richard P., Brink, Carr, Carrico, Cox, J.A., Dance, Englin, Garrett, Greason, Herring, Hope, Howell, A.T., Iaquinto, James, Janis, Joannou, Kilgore, Knight, Lewis, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, McClellan, McQuinn, Merricks, Miller, J.H., Miller, P.J., Morefield, Morrissey, O’Bannon, Oder, Orrock, Peace, Phillips, Pogge, Poindexter, Purkey, Putney, Scott, J.M., Sickles, Spruill, Stolle, Tata, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Villanueva, Ware, O., Wilt, Wright–55.

NAYS–Abbitt, Abbott, Albo, Anderson, Bell, Robert B., Bulova, Byron, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Cosgrove, Cox, M.K., Ebbin, Edmunds, Filler-Corn, Gilbert, Habeeb, Hugo, Ingram, Johnson, Jones, Keam, Kory, Landes, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Morgan, Nutter, Plum, Pollard, Robinson, Rust, Scott, E.T., Sherwood, Shuler, Surovell, Ward, Ware, R.L., Watts, Mr. Speaker–40.


NOT VOTING–Athey, Cleaveland, May–3.

Delegate Cleaveland recorded as not voting. Intended to vote nay.
Delegate Cosgrove recorded as nay. Intended to vote yea.
Delegate Cox, J.A. recorded as yea. Intended to vote nay.
Delegate Crockett-Stark recorded as abstaining. Intended to vote nay.
Delegate Kory recorded as nay. Intended to vote yea.
Delegate Scott, J.M. recorded as yea. Intended to vote nay.


YEAS–Barker, Blevins, Colgan, Deeds, Edwards, Herring, Houck, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, Martin, McDougle, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Newman, Norment, Northam, Obenshain, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Quayle, Reynolds, Ruff, Saslaw, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Ticer, Wagner, Wampler, Watkins, Whipple–38.

NAYS–Hanger, Vogel–2.

RULE 36–0.



7 Responses to “Governor McDonnell – Please Veto the Mandatory PE Bill”

  1. Governor McDonnell – Please Veto the Mandatory PE Bill (via PWC Education Reform Blog) | Citizen Tom Says:

    […] Here is an illustration of how mandates from the federal government and the Commonwealth of Virginia hobble local school boards. When supposedly well-intentioned legislators pass mandate after mandate after mandate…, how can any school board do its job? When mandates have soaked up all their funds, what is a school board suppose to do?  The bill mandating that public schools provide a minimum number of PE minutes per week to reduce childhood obesity rates has passed the General Assembly and awaits Governor McDonnell’s signature (see SB 966). The bill would require a total of 150 minutes of PE each week for all public school students in grades K – 12, except half day kindergarten students, starting in the Fall of 2014. Supporters of the bill argue that increased PE time will redu … Read More […]

  2. Tracy Says:

    I am not sure it is a bad idea. 30 minutes does make a difference to one’s overall health. Exercise can sharpen the mind. In many cultures students do exercises before learning. It is my understanding that it improves their health and ability to learn, as well as their scores on test.

    Exercise/PE can occur in a classroom. Yes, new gyms would be great, but we have to get out of the mindset that one can only exercise in a gym.

    Our kids are not as successful as many other countries despite different attempts; right or wrong. Maybe it’s time we look at the whole child and get them moving!

    I know 30 minutes of exercise makes me sharper for the day, what about you? Why not our kids?

    • Anon Says:

      So Tracy – which instructional program will you reduce to provide this 30 minutes of exercise – Math, Reading, Science, or History? Because the instructional day is already full and the only way to carve out 30 minutes a day for PE is if you reduce instructional time dedicated to core academic subjects. With calculators and spell check, reading a math are overrated anyway.

      So which subject needs less instructional time?

    • Mom22 Says:

      As the Gym requirements at most grade levels in Middle and High school already meet the 150 minute requirement, this bill primarily applies to elementary students. At the elementary level children are already supposed to get 20 mins of recess every day, which, because of the weather, is often held in the classroom. Would that recess count as “PE” time, recognizing that when held indoors, indoor recess is often just playing board games or building with Legos?

      Somehow I don’t think that is the intent. I think the intent is for 30 mins of sustained heart beat raising physical activity like stretching and jumping jacks and running in place.

      So let’s just think about that for a minute. Elementary classes are around 27 students – give or take a few. They’re crowded with coats and backpacks, desks, projectors, smart boards, bookcases, and other things that support instruction. Just walking around an elementary classroom in like moving through a maze.

      Now have the children in that crowded classroom do 30 mins of sustained physical activity (not a sit in a group break, but actual running, jumping, or stretching). To be safe each student would need a circle of about 5 feet in diameter where there isn’t any other stuff, like desks or bookcases or chairs. Realistically speaking, you’d probably want more space for little kids as they don’t have the motor control to stay in one place and tend to bounce around a bit, but let’s ignore that for now.

      That means each classroom must have at least 625 square feet of cleared space (25 feet by 25 feet or some other combination). When was the last time you saw an elementary classroom with 625 feet of cleared space? I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been in classrooms for the better part of my life.

      There’s an old saying that the pathway to hell is paved with good intentions. This idea has the best of intentions, but, like so many well intentioned plans, falls apart on delivery. Classrooms are not large enough for real physical activity and school gyms, assuming they exist, simply can not fit all of those kids.

      If your kids need more exercise, then make them go outside and play. If you think they’ll learn better if they get 30 mins of exercise each morning, then take them for a walk before school. Let the schools focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic.

      • Tracy Says:

        You may be right.

        I am for running the kids around the building for 15 to 30 minutes each day. I think it will calm them down and make them ready to learn. I think it is worth the try. I don’t know what would have to give academically and I am not sure why something has to give. Additionally, lots of exercises can be done in place, don’t discount their value. 15 minutes a morning would meet half the requirement, the rest could be achieved with the current schedule. Maybe it is time to think out of the box. I walked to school 15 minutes everyday; rain, snow, ice. My kids can run around a building every morning.

      • Tracy Says:

        By the way, it is really not all about my kids. My kids are extremely fit, they amaze me. I could use 30 minutes of gym a day, but that is another story! LOL.

        Yes, our kids have to be ready for college or a trade and it needs to be the schools’ focus.

        30 minutes a day of exercise out gets a children ready for life. Something many kids are not getting and the are paying a horrible price.

        Unhealthy children make unhealthy adults and cost society tons(literally and figuratively!). Obesity leads to diabetes, heart disease, increased asthma, etc. These lead to missed time at school and work. That leads to less learning and productivity, increased medical cost and disabilities.

        If 150 minutes of gym can change the outcome for even a small number of future adults, well, I do not think I am opposed. The cost today will be much lower then the costs of the future if not addressed. AND IF the children learn more because they are even slightly healthier or the child with ADHD is able to sit 5 minutes longer without disturbing the class, then I think we will all benefit.

        Many kids do not have parents that make them go outside. It seems like half the school age kids are ADHD anymore and how many are obese? Exercise is proven to help both, why not give it a try?

        I definitely do not know all the answers, but I am willing to explore some of the options.

        Again you may be right, but you may also be wrong.

  3. Bret Says:

    According to a 2010 CDC review of 50 studies spanning 23 years, children who are physically fit and active often do better in the classroom than those who aren’t active. Physical activity increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain and boosts the growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus — the brain’s center of learning and memory.

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