Three statewide education groups are joining with the Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal League to urge Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) to veto a bill that requires elementary and middle schools to offer 150 minutes of physical education a week.
Fairfax County officials had been pushing McDonnell to veto the bill, arguing that it is an unfunded mandate that would cost local governments millions as they hire new teachers, and that it would take time away from academics.
Now, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia Education Association and the Virginia School Boards Association have joined with the local government groups to make the same arguments.
“We recognize that the bill’s intent of fighting childhood obesity is a laudable goal. We ask, however, that you exercise your discretion to veto this bill because of two major concerns: (1) the bill imposes a substantial unfunded mandate on school divisions and localities and (2) due to time constraints and other requirements imposed on the public schools, the bill’s implementation will pose very significant instructional and practical problems,” they write in a letter to McDonnell.
Many schools, they say, are not equipped to offer so much physical education, particularly indoors on rainy days, and would face capital costs. And districts would have to hire dozens of new teachers. They say there would not be enough teachers currently employed to teach physical education because the gym classes would conflict with their legally mandated planning time.
McDonnell is also getting lobbied to sign the bill into law by parents and health advocates, who believe it will help curb childhood obesity.
The physical education bill is shaping up to be the most hotly contested of the 1,600 bills approved by the General Assembly this year now awaiting McDonnell’s signature. He must decide whether to sign, veto or amend bills by March 29. The General Assembly will return to Richmond to consider his actions April 6.