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Northern Virginia Delegates Letter opposing SB 966, the PE mandate bill
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March 6, 2011

The Honorable Robert McDonnell

Office of the Governor

Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor

1111 East Broad Street

Richmond, Virginia 23219

Dear Governor McDonnell:

We write to urge you to veto SB 966, a bill, which would mandate 150 minutes per week for physical education to all students in grades K-8 during the regular school year by 2014.  This legislation would represent the first time that the Standards of Quality would mandate a specific amount of time for any individual subject. 

We appreciate the concerns about childhood obesity that were focused on in the debate on this bill.  However, there are significant fiscal and instructional impacts from this bill that were not thoroughly vetted or considered during our General Assembly session.  In addition, our school system in Fairfax County, quite frankly, dropped the ball in communicating their concerns and many of my colleagues were left unaware of the financial and instructional impacts of this bill.  We did vote against the bill.  However, a number of our Fairfax colleagues who voted for the bill told us that it was only after final passage that they ever heard anything from the school system and they might have voted differently had they known of these concerns.   We know that our Superintendent and School Board Chair have now communicated to you and to our colleagues in detail about their concerns and we endorse their efforts.  However, this information was unknown by many of my colleagues when we voted on this measure.

This bill is first, an unfunded mandate that will cost Fairfax County schools, as well as others, millions of dollars.  In Fairfax it is estimated that the additional costs for staffing alone will be between $18-24 million.  Second, this bill will crowd out other mandates and accountability requirements in academics.  In science and math, we need to be increasing our time on task, not decreasing it.  This bill would have the opposite impact and set us back academically.  Given that there is no other subject where 150 minutes a week is mandated, it is illogical that physical education would get this kind of unique status over math, science, reading, or the humanities.  Already we require physical education for the many of our students who participate in two or three sports outside school and would prefer more academic time instead.   And this bill does not allow recess to count as physical education time, so it is only academic time that can be depleted by this bill.  If this bill goes into effect, after the 150 minutes of physical education is incorporated, there would be only 22 minutes of time left for all other activities such as art, music and the humanities.   

Unlike many academic subjects that need class time, there are many other arenas where we can target help for overweight children without adding to deficits in their academics and providing a well-rounded education. After-school programs, targeted programs for particular populations at risk, or parent education programs through community, civil or church groups have all been addressing the threats of childhood obesity.  We know the First Lady of Virginia has also joined with First Lady Michelle Obama in giving this issue public attention and we applaud their efforts.  These private sector and public service education efforts can work on this issue instead of adding another “one size fits all” mandate to our schools. 

Finally, since it is often low-income children who are most academically at risk, to take academic time away from them would do the most harm.  While they can find other avenues for physical activity, they have fewer choices for academic challenges outside of the classroom.  

For these reasons, and for the details outlined in the earlier letter you have received from Fairfax County school officials, we strongly urge you to VETO SB966.




Barbara Comstock                                                            Dave Albo

House of Delegates, 34th District                                    House of Delegates, 42nd District


Tom Rust                                                                        Tim Hugo

House of Delegates, 86th District                                    House of Delegates, 40th District


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