Gym Mandate Legislation Is Back

Last session a seemingly well-intentioned proposal was introduced requiring elementary school students to receive 30 minutes of gym class daily. Although that bill ultimately did not make it out of committee, a similar proposal is back this session (LRB 2125/1) and a memo is being circulated to legislators from Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay) asking for support.

The WASB opposed the bill introduced last session and opposes the new proposal as well for several reasons:  For starters, this new mandate on instructional time would take away local districts’ flexibility in scheduling.  In many smaller and rural elementary schools the multi-purpose rooms where gym classes are most often held are scheduled so tightly during the school day that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to squeeze in additional physical education classes.  Thus, adding physical education classes may also make it much more difficult for these schools to schedule special classes such as art and music.

For another, this bill is likely to impose new costs in many districts—on other words, it is an unfunded mandate.  When this was proposed last session, one school district told the WASB Government Relations staff, “We would have to double the physical education staffing needs at our elementary school and add a .25 FTE at the Middle School for the 5th grade requirement.  We feel that this is an unnecessary expense as these kids already are participating in active recess time, as well as after school athletic programs in most cases.”

In short, this bill would impose an unfunded mandate on many school districts and interfere with local school boards’ ability to schedule the school day.  School boards that wish to require 150 minutes of elementary physical education per week may do so on a voluntary basis.  They should be able to make that decision as locally-elected officials and not be mandated to do so by the state.

It is important for legislators to understand the potential implications for this seemingly benign idea. Take a moment to contact your legislators and tell them how this proposal would impact your school district.  Ask them to please NOT sign up as a co-sponsor of this proposal.