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City Council passes physical education bill

By Gabriel Rom

The City Council has unanimously passed legislation introduced by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) to further ensure that city children receive state-mandated physical education.

“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 Department of Education does not report on whether schools comply with the minimum standards for physical education.”

The bill, which passed 45-0 last week, will require the DOE to report the number of minutes and frequency of PE at all grade levels, as well as the number of full-time and part-time certified instructors at each school. The DOE will then be required to submit data to the City Council speaker, which must be posted on its website, allowing the public to view how much PE is given at NYC public schools.

“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,” Crowley said.

The bill came after City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report in May, based on studies conducted by his office and the Phys Ed 4 All Coalition, which found 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. Stringer’s report said a third of schools had no full-time certified gym teacher. He also said there were more than 400,000 students in New York City public schools that don’t have access to a “full-time, certified PE teacher,” “attend a school without a physical fitness space” or “attend a school that does not have access to an outdoor school yard or nearby yard.”

New York state law requires that students in middle school and high school have a certified physical education teacher.

“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,” Stringer said last week.

“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 (D-Jackson Heights), chairman of the Education Committee and co-sponsor of the legislation. “Our city has failed to meet the basic physical education needs of our public school students, thereby violating state education law.”

The first report will be released by Aug. 31, 2016 and will reflect the conditions for this school year.

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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