A bill in the Nevada Legislature would make physical education mandatory for students in kindergarten through 11th grade. But the measure faced opposition Tuesday from school officials who say there’s not enough time in the school day to balance the bill’s requirements with academic obligations.
Members of the Senate Education Committee reviewed SB178, which aims to increase physical education instruction and close loopholes that allow physical education requirements to be waived or excluded from a personalized education plan.
“There are some requirements right now, but they’re not pervasive or comprehensive,” said Republican Sen. Joe Hardy, who’s a doctor and the bill’s sponsor. “We’d like little children and big children and in-between children to get in the habit of exercising.”
Clark County School District officials said elementary school students take a 50-minute physical education class twice a week, while sixth-graders and eighth-graders take one semester a year. In high school, students are required to take two years of physical education, but they can bypass the requirement through one of numerous exemptions.
Washoe County School District officials testified that they have no formalized physical education program for elementary school students.
The bill comes amid the backdrop of a youth obesity problem in Nevada. State health officials testified that 15.9 percent of seventh-graders who are white are obese, while the rate is 28 percent for Hispanic students.
Hardy said his bill would require a council to set standards for physical education content and performance. It would also prohibit teachers from disciplining students by preventing them from going to recess.
“What we’re trying to do is allow a kid to move,” Hardy said. “If a student can move, the theory would be they’ll do better cognitively, they’ll do better with their grades.”
Hardy acknowledged that the bill would face opposition because it includes an unfunded mandate — it requires more of schools without providing additional funding to carry out the proposed programs. He suggested there were cheaper ways to meet the goal of ramping up physical activity, such as using workout videos.
“That doesn’t mean they can’t figure out what to do that would be more than what they’re doing now,” he said