A bill that would have updated physical education requirements in Minnesota schools has been stalled in the state Senate. Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, introduced the measure in late January. It calls for annual assessments of students’ health, which would begin in late elementary school; a ban on the suspension of recess as a punishment; and an increase in the number of physical education credits required to graduate high school.
Currently, more than three-quarters of elementary and middle schools in the state fail to provide students with the federally recommended amount of daily physical activity. High school physical education requirements vary, but many do not require students to take those types of classes to graduate.
In a Senate hearing on the bill, University of Minnesota associate professor Toben Nelson testified in favor of increasing students’ physical education. The Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition argued that physical education leads to better student attendance, academic performance, behavior and health.
Most objections to the bill relate to a high school credit requirement, with stakeholders noting that high school students are already on a tight schedule to get students to graduate. However, the bill addresses this issue by reducing the minimum required number of electives from seven to five in order to make space for extra physical education courses.
Physical activity clearly benefits students, and it’s likely to lead to increased academic success at all stages of schooling, including college. Consequently, we encourage lawmakers to act on the bill and update the state’s physical education requirements to better reflect students’ needs.