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Critics: Iowa Education Plan Lacks Necessary Health Component

Physical-education teachers note that P.E. is about more than kicking a ball; it's about teaching children healthy lifestyle choices they'll carry with them into adulthood. (Ben Landers/Pixabay)
Physical-education teachers note that P.E. is about more than kicking a ball; it's about teaching children healthy lifestyle choices they'll carry with them into adulthood. (Ben Landers/Pixabay)
 By Kevin Patrick Allen, Public News Service - IA, Contact
August 24, 2017

DES MOINES, Iowa – Physical-education teachers in Iowa are saying enough is enough. The latest draft of Iowa's education plan - released Wednesday - doesn't address PE coursework.

Critics say school funding for physical education began dropping about six years ago. The initial drop was an unintended consequence of No Child Left Behind legislation. That was followed by state budget woes that led to even more cuts.

Jody Larson, president of the Iowa Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, says the Every Student Succeeds Act plan for Iowa is all about priorities but PE isn't listed.

"There's nothing more important than a student's health," she stresses. "If you don't have your health long-term, being an employee, being able to function in life, all of those things tie back to having quality skills and physical literacy - being able to move and take care of your body."

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind, is in its first year which means states have an initial opportunity to present a plan addressing student assessments, school accountability, funding, and support for struggling schools.

ESSA lumps special programs ranging from technology to PE into one category. Larson fears it'll make it easier to eliminate PE funding because it's not specifically addressed.

Research from the American Heart Association showed that 95 percent of parents with children under 18 want physical education to be part of their child's overall education.

Larson said failing to include PE in the plan ultimately may translate into fewer resources, fewer trained PE teachers and reduced funding in schools throughout the state. She says it's important to understand that physical-education classes are not what they were 20 or 30 years ago.

"Some people still think physical-education classes are rolling a ball and getting to play," she says. "So, they don't see the difference between after-school sports and physical education."

She notes that physical-education teachers are trained to provide instruction on matters pertaining to nutrition and healthy lifestyles.

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