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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

McDonnell vetoes physical education bill
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Bob McDonnell

Monday, March 28, 2011

By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer

Gov. Bob McDonnell has vetoed a bill that would require elementary and middle schools to provide 150 minutes of physical education per week.

In a veto statement late Thursday, McDonnell said that the requirement is an unfunded mandate on localities.

"While the objective of the this legislation is laudable, the proposed means of accomplishment is problematic. Education officials tell me that this measure would cost them tens of millions of dollars," McDonnell said.

The General Assembly would need two-thirds majorities in both the House and Senate to override McDonnell's veto. The assembly's veto session is April 6.

Supporters of the physical education requirement said that it was an effort to curb childhood obesity.

Thirteen public health and recreation groups asked McDonnell to sign the bill. The groups signing a letter to the governor include the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association and Medical Society of Virginia.

But a group of education and local government organizations urged the governor to reject it, expressing concerns about costs and other problems with implementing it.

The five organizations asking for the veto were the Virginia Education Association, Virginia Association of School Superintendents, Virginia School Boards Association, Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League.

Both the House and Senate passed bills requiring 150 minutes of physical education weekly in grades K-8.

The requirement would take effect in the 2014-2015 school year.

The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk), is intended to help curb childhood obesity, according to Northam.

The bill passed the Senate with ease, but 40 members of the House of Delegates voted against the measure amid concerns about the costs and implementation of the physical education requirement.

In a letter to to McDonnell, the government and education organizations said the projected personnel costs alone are substantial.

In addition to the personnel costs, this bill will have significant capital costs for many school divisions.  While physical education can certainly be conducted outdoors during certain times of the year, the legislation has no inclement weather provision and schools simply were not built with this physical education requirement in mind. Many elementary schools do not have gymnasiums or other facilities sufficient to meet the requirements of this bill.

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