Public schools; physical education requirement, exception. (SB966)

Introduced By

Sen. Ralph Northam (D-Norfolk)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Public schools; physical education requirement.  Requires at least 150 minutes of physical education per week on average during the regular school year for grades K through eight, with a similar goal for high school students. This requirement would go into effect beginning with the 2014 -2015 school year. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/11/2011Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/12/11 11102784D
01/11/2011Referred to Committee on Education and Health
01/14/2011Assigned Education sub: Public Education
01/20/2011Reported from Education and Health with substitute (11-Y 1-N) (see vote tally)
01/20/2011Committee substitute printed 11104408D-S1
01/20/2011Incorporates SB803
01/20/2011Incorporates SB934
01/21/2011Constitutional reading dispensed (35-Y 0-N) (see vote tally)
01/24/2011Read second time
01/24/2011Reading of substitute waived
01/24/2011Committee substitute agreed to 11104408D-S1
01/24/2011Engrossed by Senate - committee substitute SB966S1
01/25/2011Read third time and passed Senate (37-Y 2-N) (see vote tally)
01/26/2011Impact statement from DPB (SB966S1)
02/07/2011Placed on Calendar
02/07/2011Read first time
02/07/2011Referred to Committee on Education
02/09/2011Reported from Education with amendments (14-Y 7-N) (see vote tally)
02/10/2011Read second time
02/11/2011Read third time
02/11/2011Committee amendments agreed to
02/11/2011Engrossed by House as amended
02/11/2011Passed House with amendments (55-Y 40-N 1-A)
02/11/2011VOTE: PASSAGE (55-Y 40-N 1-A) (see vote tally)
02/15/2011House amendments agreed to by Senate (38-Y 2-N) (see vote tally)
02/17/2011Bill text as passed Senate and House (SB966ER)
02/17/2011Impact statement from DPB (SB966ER)
02/17/2011Signed by Speaker
02/20/2011Signed by President
03/25/2011G Vetoed by Governor
04/05/2011Placed on Calendar
04/06/2011Communicated to Governor
04/06/2011Motion to pass in enrolled form rejected (16-Y 24-N) (see vote tally)
04/06/2011Senate sustained Governor's veto


This bill was discussed on the floor of the General Assembly. Below is all of the video that we have of that discussion, 2 clips in all, totaling 11 minutes.

Duplicate Bills

The following bills are identical to this one: HB1644.


Jean Tate Johnson writes:

I urge passage of this bill.

E Johnson writes:

Quantity PE is not quality. School divisions do not have the staff, facilities, or equipment to provide students 150 hours of PE per week. This would require massive numbers of student sharing gym/multi purpose room space and equipment which would result in more waiting and less active participation... not to mention the safety issues! Saying that you are going to mandate that kids get 150 minutes of PE does not mean that will translate into more activity/ participation.

Waldo Jaquith writes:

I don't see any place in this bill that specifies how this is going to be funded. Is this just something that we're forcing localities to do now, in addition to the SOLs? I mean, I'm totally down with getting kids physically active, but how in the world do we expect schools to come up with the time and money for this?

Debra Steppel writes:

Has there been any research to determine whether or not there are enough additional PE teachers available to teach the extra hours required? There are better ways to encourage our children to be more physically active than this unfunded mandate. This bill would also end up cutting (and possibly eliminating) instruction time in art, music, and foreign language. There is only so much time in a school day. When kids can use recess time to run around, they are not waiting in line to use sports equipment -- they are actually getting exercise.

Virginia Fitz Shea writes:

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education states that a high quality physical education program includes the following components: opportunity to learn, meaningful content and appropriate instruction.
"Opportunity to Learn:
--Instructional periods totaling 150 minutes per week (elementary) and 225 minutes per week (middle and secondary school)
--- Qualified physical education specialist providing a developmentally appropriate program
--Adequate equipment and facilities."
This legislation is needed to provide students an adequate opportunity to learn from a quality PE program and to provide a good opportunity for structured exercise.

Phyllis Payne writes:

I support the bill -- Schools can continue to provide the same as current amount of traditional PE with games, rope climbing, taking turns being active (e.g., 50 minutes/week) AND ADD minutes (e.g., 20-minutes/day) of physical activity that can be done by a large number of students concurrently. For example, jumping jacks, walking in the gym on a rainy day, stretching. Classroom teachers could use the time to plan. And, I recognize that the whole school won't fit into the gym at the same time, so there will be scheduling challenges, but I think there are creative ways to provide this time without increasing costs -- especially easy when the weather is nice. Could potentially SAVE money.

Thanks for putting the health of the children first. Health is vital to the learning process and to our nation's future.

Michael Dennis writes:

There are three reasons to oppose this bill:

1. Adequate facilities are, indeed, necessary for the implementation of this bill. However, most school divisions in Virginia have barely enough facilities for the current 60 minutes a week typical of an elementary school PE program. This would more than double the requirement, and there is no funding provided for the construction/renovation costs that will be necessary. This is, therefore, an unfunded mandate in disguise.

2. The bill's sponsors actually envision that much of this additional time would be provided by classroom teachers rather than by specialists, as a way to avoid the additional cost of specialist staffing. This undoes most of the benefit - a physically unfit teacher in professional dress simply could not provide the level of instruction necessary for this to have any real benefit for the children. This is especially true since the children who most need the help will probably not be forced by the government to change their diet, or how they spend their free time at home.

3. In order to provide the additional PE time without the cost of a longer instructional day, time from other non-AYP subjects such as art, music, science, and social studies will have to be cut from the schedule.

Fighting childhood obesity is a top public health priority. However, unfunded mandates, the use of non-specialists staff, and cuts in other subjects should not be necessary to make this happen. This bill is a short-sighted attempt to be seen as doing something. Should it become law, it will have far-reaching consequences while doing very little to combat the problem it purports to address.

Michael Dennis writes:

@Phyllis Payne -

Unfortunately, this bill contains no inclement-weather provisions. While you are correct that space would be easy to find when the weather is nice, there are simply no options available when it snows 2 feet. The requirement for DAILY activity is unflinching.

Many schools are pushing the fire-code limits on their classroom and gymnasium space as it is. For some, the cafeteria is only an option if lunch is cancelled.

A school could add 20 minutes a day of calisthenics if overcrowded classrooms can be reworked - but which subject would you cancel to provide that 20 minutes? Something has to give, either from the budget for hourly staff, or from the instructional time offered in other subjects.

It's all fine and good to talk about 'creative solutions.' if this passes, come 2014, I will expect to see you actively engaged in helping school systems find the supposedly cost-free way to implement this legislation.

This goal could have been met MUCH more intelligently than through this bill.

Debra Steppel writes:

Michael Dennis is 100% correct about this being an unfunded mandate from the state. I learned from a school board member last week that this bill "came out of nowhere" -- school boards across Virginia were caught by surprise, were not consulted regarding how it might be implemented, and are against the bill. Students in overcrowded schools, using trailers for classrooms, cannot easily find space to do calisthenics when they barely have room to put their coat and backpack while sitting at their desk to learn. I don't see any exceptions for kids who are already doing after-school athletics, kids who are NOT obese, etc. The goal of reducing childhood obesity is laudable, but this bill is not the right way to accomplish that go

Virginia Fitz Shea writes:

It is ridiculous for local school boards to complain about "unfunded mandates" when the Virginia General Assembly fulfills its responsibility to set reasonable standards for time in school and the activities that should be included. The General Assembly is taking the big picture view, in contrast to the short-sighted lack of planning for improvements exhibited by some reactionary local school boards. Three cheers for the wise legislators who voted "yes" on this legislation!

VA PE Teacher writes:

This bill is a nice idea but I do not think it will work due to funding and time in the day.Wea re already crunched for time anyway. Plus, where would we put all the kids? 2 or 3 classes at one time can not fit in the gym and the would be not very quality teaching/PE time. Some schools do not even have a gym.

Another PE teacher writes:

i suggest that we mandate the General Assembly be given an additional 30 days to conduct their business but they must do so in the multi purpose room of an elementary school. They would probably be as effective at their job as PE teachers will be cramming 80 kids into the same multipurpose room and conduct safe and effective Physical Education classes whic will also provide enough movement to reduce obesity and increase the fitness levels of their students.

Virginia Fitz Shea writes:

When he vetoed this legislation, Governor Bob McDonnell said that relying on School Health Advisory Boards will allow for local level decision making based on each locality's needs. He said that one way to get our children more physically active is to "utilize mechanisms already in place--through our local School Health Advisory Boards to create wellness policies for our schools."
Fairfax County students are out of luck now, since the school board has shown no interest in considering the recommendations of Fairfax County's School Health Advisory Committee (SHAC). In 2007 SHAC recommended that the amount of time for PE should be increased from 60 minutes to 90 minutes per week in elementary schools in Fairfax County. The staff responded that such a change may require additional staffing and “this may also require an extended school day since there is now barely enough time for core instruction.”

SHAC also recommended that Fairfax County should require recess to be least 20 minutes per day with the exception of short Mondays. The staff responded that 10 minutes is all the time that is available for recess while still meeting the requirement for 990 hours of instruction annually. “By setting recess at 20 minutes, it would be necessary to extend the school day, or create a uniform weekly schedule,” the staff said.

The school board never took the opportunity to place the staff response and the issues raised by the SHAC report on its agenda. Governor McDonnell is very naive if he thinks the school health advisory committees have any meaningful influence over the local school boards.

Fairfax County students face a Catch 22. The school board won't take further action unless it is mandated by law. The school board also throws its weight against any new law as an "unfunded mandate."

Christina Johnston, RN, BSN writes:

Reading about this bill makes me sick because it's the most obvious bill necessary to help combat the rise of childhood obesity. I have four children 2 whom have graduated and 1 that is in highschool and I have witnessed thru my kids they have time for P.E. All three of them had a period that was a "free period" where they could do homework etc. My daughter who is in the 7th grade only gets P.E. 2 days a week alternating weeks. The govt. wants to complain about the rising obesity rates and increased healthcare costs but continue to do nothing to assist in addressing the issue at hand.