Statement to the New York City Council Committee on Education

Preliminary Budget Hearing, March 25, 2015

Good afternoon, my name is Erin George and I am here today testifying on behalf of the Phys Ed for All Coalition. The Phys Ed for All Coalition would like to thank Chairperson Daniel Dromm and the Education Committee for the opportunity to testify on the critical issue of New York City school funding.

As the Council considers the City’s education budget, we hope the Council will push to ensure that the DOE does more to help schools meet the state requirements for providing our children with physical education.

Research shows that participation in quality physical education enhances students’ academic achievement, instills good habits for healthy living and teaches critical skills such as teamwork. PE can help improve children’s grades and standardized test scores, as well as their concentration and classroom behavior. PE improves physical fitness for all school children, and is especially critical for students with obesity and related health problems. Approximately one in five NYC public school students in grades K-8 are obese, and obesity rates are higher in low-income communities of color.

Despite these well-documented benefits, DOE schools routinely fail to provide their students with the physical education required by State regulations as part of the “opportunity for a sound basic education” to which all students are entitled under the state constitution.

As our coalition recently testified at this Committee’s hearing on overcrowding, part of the problem is that New York City needs to invest more in school construction and maintenance.  Our schools do not have enough gymnasiums, playing fields or playgrounds. Too many of the spaces we do have are falling into disrepair. Co-located schools struggle to schedule sufficient time for PE in shared gymnasiums.

Strained school budgets also inhibit schools from hiring enough certified PE instructors to develop, implement and oversee comprehensive physical education curricula. Schools also need guidance and assistance to best use the staff and space that they have. Without these investments, our children will not get the physical education that they need to promote lifelong habits for healthy living.

Unfortunately, the lack of data on physical education in our schools makes it difficult to evaluate whether the DOE is investing properly or effectively in PE in order to best promote our children’s education and health. The DOE’s failure to make public, and in many instances even track, basic data on the quality and amount of PE instruction hampers citywide efforts to improve access to PE. This is why the Phys Ed for All coalition urges the Council to enact Intro 644, which will require the DOE to report on all aspects of physical education, including space and facilities, in NYC schools.

This bill will provide parents, communities and elected officials with critical information about how PE in NYC is currently functioning and where budgetary gaps lie. A reporting bill will inform where funding should be directed in order to have the greatest impact upon students’ access to quality PE instruction.

Intro 644 was introduced in February 2015 by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, and it already has bipartisan support of 28 councilmembers (and counting) including the Chairs of the Education and Health Committees.  We urge the Council to hold hearings and bring this bill to a vote as soon as possible in order to better inform the appropriation of the NYC public school budget.

For more information on the Phys Ed for All Coalition, please contact Sascha Murillo (smurillo@nylpi.org) or Erin George (egeorge@nylpi.org) at 212-244-4664.


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