March 28, 2011

Play Hater! Virginia Governor McDonnell vetoes more physical activity in schools

There has been a flurry of research lately about the importance of physical activity and outdoor play when it comes to children's academic performance, but some folks clearly aren't paying attention. Among them is Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, who vetoed a bill last week that would have required all elementary and middle school students in Virginia to participate in 150 minutes of physical activity a week, in addition to recess.

The bill passed 37-2 in the Senate and 55-40 in the House, but Governor McDonnell had the final say. He was not only concerned about increased physical activity taking away from classroom time, but also about funding the initiative. Yet as our CEO and Founder Darell Hammond points out in his Huffington Post piece, "Why All Schools Should Require More P.E.":

Government funding is largely a matter of priority, and by passing the bill, McDonnell would have demonstrated to the people of Virginia that the state is serious about children's health. The reality of implementation would have lent urgency to a problem that we as a country have let languish for far too long.

He goes on to say:

In Virginia, 24 percent of children are on Medicaid and one in three is overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia has the 14th-highest obesity-related health care costs in the 50 states. Clearly, the childhood obesity epidemic is already costing the Virginia government a significant chunk of money--so why refuse to invest money in a long-term solution?

It's important to remember that the bill is not the only solution. Childhood obesity is a multi-pronged problem that requires a multi-pronged plan of attack. As opponents of the bill rightly point out, schools certainly can't be expected to shoulder the entire burden of "fixing" the problem, but they can still play an important role.

We are deeply disappointed in McDonnell's decision. The bill not only would have helped improve the health and well-being of Virginia's children, but it could have set a precedent for other states to follow. Sign our online petition to tell McDonnell that you are disappointed by his veto and to encourage him to prioritize physical activity for Virginia's children.

Learn more about the bill at Huffington Post.

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