Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are Elementary Art and Music Programs Threatened?

To follow up on yesterday’s posting, the new language Delegate O’Bannon’s HB1644 inserts into the code reads as follows:

“A program of daily physical education available to all students in grades kindergarten through eight consisting of at least 150 minutes per week on average during the regular school year. Each local school board shall incorporate into its local wellness policy a goal for the implementation of a similar program for high school students during the regular school year.”

The following words are the final words of the bill:

“That the provisions of this act shall become effective beginning with the 2014 - 2015 school year.”

These words allegedly provide time for the bill’s implementation, but the true purpose of these words may me to keep the bill from having a fiscal impact on the current budget cycle, to allow the bill’s sponsor to claim no fiscal impact and to keep the bill’s costs from being taken into consideration.

This strategy worked today, and the efforts of those, who favor increasing the time students have for physical activity without harming our music art and other programs failed.

More time for physical education should be provided. Doing this will probably require more P.E. teachers and a longer school day. This will cost money, and if the General Assembly chooses to impose this good policy on our schools, the General Assembly should help pay the costs.

It appears that the General Assembly will not even examine the cost implications of the bill.

My fear now is that localities will implement the policy with no help from the state, and that the localities which are cash poor at this juncture and tired of unfunded state mandates will do so at the cost of art and music.

This bill is headed to the full house following a 16-6 Education Committee vote to report the bill. There may be an effort on the floor to refer this bill to the Appropriations Committee to examine the costs. Please call or email your delegate urging them to support referring the bill back to Appropriations.