WASHINGTON — A bill introduced in Maryland’s General Assembly that would require a specific number of minutes of physical education classes could have a dramatic impact on Montgomery County Public Schools, if it passes.
Physical education classes are required for elementary school students in Maryland, but the state has not designated a minimum number of minutes that kids have to spend in those classes.
So for the eighth year in a row, a Democratic lawmaker from Prince George’s County is trying to change that.
Del. Jay Walker introduced the Student Health and Fitness Act, or House Bill 393. He has introduced similar legislation every year, ever since 2010.
“All we’re trying to do is get 90 minutes of [physical education] a week,” Walker told the House Ways and Means Committee during a hearing last week.
The bill would require elementary schools to provide at least another 60 minutes a week for recess, for a total of 150 minutes a week of physical activity.
“Many of us grew up … when we had P.E. every day in the schools. Some of us can remember that. But P.E. every day out of the schools has been gone for a long time, and I tell you and I promise you that the parents do not know this,” Walker told the committee.
“Childhood obesity — it’s becoming an epidemic not only nationwide but in the state of Maryland,” he added. “Eighteen percent of our children between the ages of 6 and 11 are considered obese.”
According to the Maryland State Department of Education, some school districts — such as those in Calvert and Howard counties — already require at least 90 minutes of physical education per week.
Others don’t, and Montgomery County Public Schools require the fewest of any school district in the state at just 30 to 60 minutes per week.
As a result, Montgomery County would be hardest hit by Walker’s bill, and would have to hire an estimated 133 additional physical education teachers at a cost of around $11 million.
The Montgomery County School Board submitted written testimony to the Ways and Means Committee opposing HB 393.
It reads in part:
“Scheduling increased time for physical education into the instructional day is difficult during a period of fiscal constraints and the decision should be left up to local jurisdictions. Currently, the issue of increasing students’ physical activity during the school day is being addressed in Montgomery County Public Schools through newly developed elementary physical education curriculum and the opportunity for physical activity during recess.”
Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.