As Schools Fight Obesity, Physical Education Is Cut

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, July 11, 2012

More than a half-century ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower formed the President’s Council on Youth Fitness, and today Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Michelle Obama are among those making childhood obesity a public cause. But even as virtually every state has undertaken significant school reforms, many American students are being granted little or no time in the gym.

In its biennial survey of high school students across the nation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in June that nearly half said they had no physical education classes in an average week. In New York City, that number was 20.5 percent, compared with 14.4 percent a decade earlier, according to the C.D.C.

That echoed findings by New York City’s comptroller, in October, of inadequate physical education at each of the elementary schools that auditors visited. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, found just 20 percent of elementary schools in San Francisco’s system were meeting the state’s requirements: 20 minutes per day.

At Anatola Elementary School in Van Nuys, Calif., not only are there no gym teachers, but there is also no gym. The principal, Miriam King, has relied on $15-an-hour aides to oversee once-weekly exercise regimens for her 450 students at an outside playground.

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