City Council passes legislation ensuring state-mandated physical education

RIDGEWOOD TIMES/Photo by Anthony Giudice

Public school children across the city can jump — and run and play — for joy after the City Council unanimously passed legislation on Thursday to further ensure that they are receiving state-mandated physical education (PE).

The legislation, introduced by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, will require the Department of Education (DOE) to report the number of minutes and frequency of PE at each grade level, the number of full-time and part-time certified instructors at each school and information on the on-site and off-site spaces used for instruction.

The DOE would then have to submit this data to the City Council speaker and post on its website, allowing parents, teachers and others to monitor how much PE is given at NYC public schools. The first report will be released by Aug. 31, 2016, and will reflect the conditions for this school year.

“Comprehensive, quality PE during the school day has been shown to improve children’s health, focus and academic performance. This bill is about fairness; by knowing which schools are falling short, we can provide resources to help them meet the state’s standards,” Crowley said. “Currently, the DOE does not report on whether schools comply with the minimum standards for physical education. As a public school parent, I was frustrated when my son’s school substituted gym class with test prep; and sadly, I have heard worse stories from parents — their children are without a PE teacher, class space or simply just the time for physical education.”

This bill came after City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report based on studies conducted by his office and the Phys Ed 4 All Coalition, which discovered that hundreds of thousands of public school students are without quality PE, and 60 percent of schools citywide only offer PE one to two times a week.

“In May, I released ‘Dropping the Ball,’ a report that found that New York City’s students do not have equal access to state-mandated physical education curriculum and resources,” Stringer said. “We need to level the playing field in order to combat obesity, keep our kids healthy and give them the tools they need to succeed. The bill passed this week is a major step toward greater accountability and transparency that will allow parents and advocates to determine which schools have appropriate physical education services and which are lacking.”

PE is an important aspect of overall education for students, especially in the grade school level, explained Brian Semonian, founder of Phys Ed Plus and certified PE teacher in three states: “PE in schools helps raise body awareness, fitness and understanding what makes you healthy. We know there is an obesity problem and we are not being given the tools to stop it.”

“All young people deserve a robust physical education taught by licensed professionals in a gymnasium or other large space suitable for physical activity,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, chair of the Education Committee and co-prime sponsor of the legislation. “For too long, our city has failed to meet the basic physical education needs of our public school students, thereby violating state education law.”

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