Students in elementary and middle or junior high schools should be required to have at least 90 minutes a week of physical education, a special legislative panel voted Wednesday.
The recommendation from the committee of educators, lawmakers, health professionals and parents would require that at least half that time be spent in actual activity and exercise, with the balance on textbook learning about health issues.
But the panel actually wants schools to do more. The proposal also includes a separate mandate to incorporate additional physical activity into every school day, ranging from five-minute breaks every hour and recess and lunch time activity breaks for all students to more opportunities for youngsters after school.
The recommendation, which now goes to the full Legislature, affects only kindergarten through eighthgrade students. The panel was not empowered to make recommendations for high schools.
Still to be determined, though, is how much all of this will cost Arizona taxpayers.
The committee said the amount of state aid paid to each school district should be increased to cover the expenses, including additional teachers. Rep. Mark Anderson, RMesa, chairman, refused to guess the cost, saying that will have to be computed by legislative budget staff members.
Anderson conceded the plan could hit a detour if the final number comes back in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. But Anderson said his colleagues, who already put close to $4 billion into public schools every year, will have to realize that physical education has to be a priority, just like math or science.
Sen. Barbara Leff, R-Paradise Valley, said there may be some resistance from schools who believe that devoting more time to physical education will mean less time for academics — and lower scores for their students on state-required testing.