Prioritizing PE

Parents for Healthy Kids shared that physical education should be on equal footing with academic classes. It teaches kids persistence, resilience, positive thinking and how to stay healthy.

Spot quiz: What is the only subject in school that engages a child’s mind, body, and spirit, promotes their physical and emotional health, helps them to learn better and cultivates the character they need to become productive adults? And what subject is consistently underfunded, understaffed and unscheduled?

If you answered physical education to both questions, you get an A grade.

At a time when American children are increasingly absorbed in their screens and one-third are overweight, the need for robust physical education is acute. Last month, the federal government updated its recommendations for physical activity for the first time in 10 years. The guidelines now include recommendations for children as young as age 3 and advise a minimum of 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous activity for ages 6-17.  Alas, only one in five teenagers meets this standard. Inactivity has been called “the new smoking,” and the prevalence of obesity and inactivity may well mean children today will lead shorter lifespans than their parents. Children desperately need to learn the importance of physical fitness, how to achieve it, and how to maintain it. Well-taught physical education keeps students moving and motivated, building their competence and confidence so that they can stay fit over a lifetime.

Funding for PE classes is shockingly low

Alas, just when children need it most, PE has slipped to the bottom of the curricular ladder in all too many school districts. It is profoundly shocking that the median PE budget for American schools is only $764 a year, according to the Society of Health and Physical Educators. In a school of 500 students, that means only $1.50 per child for PE, when total per pupil annual expenditures in our public schools often exceeds $12,000.

This is of special concern in the inner city, where families have few fitness resources outside of school. But it is troubling everywhere, as a perfect storm of circumstances has conspired to minimize activity in children’s lives, not only putting them at risk forlife-threatening diseases later on, but depriving them of the mental and cognitive benefits we know exercise provides. Harvard neuropsychiatrist John Ratey has called exercise “Miracle-Gro for the brain,” and hundreds of studies show exercise enhances learning as well as emotional health and social development.

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