The Maryland Senate this week approved changes to a bill that would have strengthened the state’s requirements for physical education in public schools.
As originally proposed, the Bryan Moore Student Health and Fitness Act would have required Maryland public schools to provide students in kindergarten through eighth grade with 150 minutes of physical activity a week, including a minimum of 90 minutes of physical education.
The amendment alters the bill so that it simply establishes a task force, which would determine the feasibility, merit and fiscal impact of such a change.
The amendment’s sponsor, Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, said he appreciates the need to address the state’s growing childhood obesity problem but is concerned about the burden it would place on schools.
“The superintendent from the Lower Shore called me and said, ‘This is going to be a very significant increase, and we don’t have the money to cover it,’ ” Stoltzfus said on the Senate floor. “It will require the additional hiring of faculty in many schools … and people in these areas are saying, ‘We just can’t afford it.’
“I support what this is trying to accomplish, and that’s to get our kids to exercise more, but the fiscal note seems overwhelming,” Stoltzfus added.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. David C. Harrington, D-Prince George’s, said he would accept the amendment — reluctantly.
“I know that some of you received telephone calls from back home regarding the cost [of possibly hiring] some more teachers for physical education,” he said. “But I think we also need to speak to this bill, and the reason we put in this bill, and frankly the reason why I’m passionate about this bill.”
Currently, the Maryland State Department of Education requires physical education in all schools, but specific programs are determined by the local school districts, so the amount of activity varies widely across the state. According to the bill’s policy note, some elementary schools provide 30 minutes of physical education each week, while others may provide up to 125 minutes a week.
Bryan Moore, the bill’s 14-year-old namesake, says in a YouTube video that he supports more activity in school. Moore was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at the age of 12 as a result of obesity.
“I was just so big,” Moore says in the video. “I wouldn’t want any other person to go through what I’ve gone through.”
–By Capital News Service’s Kate Elizabeth Queram
The Maryland Legislature provides updates on the status of the bill.