Legislators to exercise more school oversight

When it comes to bills that place new state mandates on how local school districts do their jobs — and add extensive new reporting requirements, to boot — we’re not big fans. But, with a little bit of revision, House Bill 1069 could be an exception.

The bill aims to ensure all elementary school students receive at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, or 150 minutes a week. In an age when childhood obesity is rising rapidly throughout the world — and Colorado is no exception — getting kids moving away from their desks and onto playgrounds or into gymnasiums is a sensible thing to do.

The bill, with a Republican and a Democratic cosponsor, received a hearing before the House Education Committee Monday.

Critics may argue that the measure will detract from school efforts to improve academics, efforts The Daily Sentinel has long supported.

But the exercise mandate makes sense, not just from a physical-health perspective, but from an academic standpoint. As the text of HB 1069 notes, studies have demonstrated that physical activity improves academic performance. It can help stimulate the brains of young scholars (and old, for that matter).

Of course, most elementary schools provide for some level of physical activity during the day, whether it’s physical education classes or recess. School District 51 says HB 1069 would allow schools to count both of those toward the mandated 30 minutes of exercise per day, as well as field trips that involve physical activity and exercise that takes place in the classroom.

However, some school districts have reportedly cut back on PE classes and even recess due to budget restrictions and the push for improving test scores.

And independently run charter schools may have different physical activity standards. But they would be included in the 30-minute-per-day mandate if HB 1069 becomes law.

The legislation is, frankly, too heavy on the documentation and reporting requirements that each school would be required to follow. They would have to document not only how much physical activity students received throughout the year, but what school facilities and equipment are used and the qualifications of those overseeing the physical activity, as well as the PE curriculum, if there is one.

With school districts already complaining about the burdensome paperwork demands they have from state and federal agencies, these reporting requirements appear to go too far. Furthermore, the fiscal note for the bill anticipates that it won’t cost the state any additional money, but individual school districts may have to hire people to fulfill the reporting requirements. The reporting mandates should be substantially reduced.

But the notion that schools must provide students with the opportunity for at least a half-hour of exercise each day is a sound one that should move forward.


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