Representing a first step of many in restoring physical education to Oregon schools, Governor Ted Kulongoski signed House Bill 3141 into law today to arrest the obesity epidemic and the growing levels of inactivity of Oregon's youth. The new legislation establishes a standard of 150 minutes per week or PE instruction for elementary and 225 minutes per week for middle school students to ensure that physical education is a component of every K-8 school curriculum throughout Oregon.
The new legislation provides $1 million, with $860,000 targeted for a grant program to support schools in meeting the new minimum standards for PE instruction. The remaining $140,000 is allocated to fund a much-needed statewide inventory of PE instruction around the state's 200-plus school districts. The inventory will provide future legislatures with data to determine future funding needs to fully implement the PE grant program within the decade.
Childhood obesity is a serious problem in Oregon. 25 percent of Oregon's 8th graders are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight and this number has been increasing. The rise in childhood obesity is partly due to the fact that physical education was no longer a mandatory part of the school day. Lack of PE not only leads to overweight, unhealthy children, but also makes children less ready to learn in the classroom. The cost of obesity is alarming: $781 million was spent in Oregon in 2003 on obesity-related medical costs.
The enlightened PE legislation, seen as a victory for more healthy kids, was championed by Senate President Peter Courtney, Majority Leader Richard Devlin, and Senator Kate Brown. More than 35 organizations from across the state that actively endorsed the legislation included the American Heart Association, Oregon Sports Authority Foundation, Council for Children's Expanded Physical Education and Oregon Medical Association. Nike, part of this coalition, represented strong business community leadership for the passage of the PE reform.
"Starting here in our own backyard, Nike is committed to helping kids have access to play, sports and physical activity," said Julia Brim-Edwards, Nike's Director of State and Public Affairs. "This is a great day for Oregon's kids as we once again recognize the importance and benefits of physical fitness and physical education."
Dr. Minot Cleveland, a coalition leader who worked on this issue for the past two decades stated, "Passage of this bill is the first critical step in restoring quality physical education to its rightful place in Oregon schools. We cannot "treat" our way out of the obesity epidemic. From a public health standpoint, we must move upstream. Quality, standards-based PE will improve the health, fitness, and academic performance of Oregon children."
Owen Blank, who spearheaded the support of the Oregon Sports Authority Foundation for PE reform remarked, "Our Legislature deserves the thanks of all Oregonians who care about kids. Legislation bringing PE back to and setting nutrition standards for our schools and significantly increasing funding for Head Start programs will positively impact the lives of our children for years to come."