Press Release

For Immediate Release

COUNCIL MEMBER CROWLEY, PHYS ED 4 ALL COALITION CALL FOR

PHYSICAL EDUCATION REFORM IN CITY SCHOOLS

CITY HALL (June 17, 2015) – Physical education (PE) has faded out of many city schools over the past few years, despite state-mandated requirements. New York City schools are required to provide 120 minutes per week of PE instruction, yet studies show schools with a lack of gym space, licensed PE teachers and more. This is why City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley in conjunction with City Council co-prime sponsors and the Phys Ed for All Coalition drafted a bill (Proposed Int. 0644) which would require the Department of Education (DOE) to submit to the City Council Speaker and post on the DOE website a report regarding information on PE in each respective school.

Comprehensive, quality PE during the school day has shown to prevent childhood obesity, increase focus and retention, improve sleeping patterns, enhance learning and instill good habits for healthy living into adulthood. With that in mind, Crowley joined government colleagues and Coalition members to call for physical education reform preceding an oversight hearing on Proposed Int. 0644-A.

“Lifestyle habits are developed at a young age. As a public school parent and lawmaker, I was disturbed to learn the DOE has been failing to provide our students with the minimum physical education requirements,” Crowley said. “The consequences are evident, as nearly 30 percent of New York City students are entering high school either obese or overweight.”

Establishing PE gives every student an opportunity to be physically active, noted the Council Member. Studies show a lack of quality PE in certain schools contributes to disparities in obesity rates and poor health outcomes.

“We are in the middle of a public health crisis, yet nobody is holding the city accountable,” Crowley continued.

A recent study done by Comptroller Scott Stringer showed holes in PE reporting – the DOE ineffectively logged minutes of PE in schools, which grades received instruction, where classes took place and more.

Proposed Int. 0644-A would fill those holes and require a comprehensive report detailing information such as the number of designated full-time and part-time state certified PE teachers, information on all designated outdoor and indoor facilities used for PE, students’ demographic information, the average frequency and amount of PE provided for each grade level and more.

“Physical education isn’t a nice ‘extra’ – not with over 26 percent of our youngest students classified as obese or severely obese. It’s a necessity for the health and educational well-being of our city’s kids,” said Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.  “Yet in our recent report, Dropping The Ball, my office found that over 32 percent of New York City schools lack a full-time, certified PE teacher, and 28 percent of schools lack a dedicated ‘physical fitness space.’ I strongly support this bill, which will provide us with the data necessary to ensure that every child in every public school receives the physical education that they deserve, and I commend Council Members Crowley and Dromm for their leadership.”

“From my experience I know that not every child receives physical education even once a week,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm, Chair of the Council Education Committee. “This is a violation of state education law and needs to change as soon as possible.”

“Physical education is an important part of a complete curriculum for our children. Failing to provide adequate time for physical education in our schools can negatively impact health and education outcomes and costs our students the opportunity to build healthy, life-long habits around exercise from an early age,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

“My daughter goes to P.S. 89,” said Leticia Zacarias, Make the Road NY member and Queens resident. “Students at P.S. 89 only have gym for half an hour each week. If our children want to play sports, we have to pay extra for them to join after-school programs. Our children deserve a minimum of an hour of PE at a time, in order to be mentally and physically healthy. My child’s health is as important as any other and the health of all of our children depends on adequate physical education in school.”

“My son is a second grader at P.S. 19,” said Rafaela Vivaldo, Make the Road NY member and Queens resident. “P.S. 19 is the most overcrowded school in Queens. Students only have gym for a half hour each week and sometimes they watch movies instead. Without a gymnasium, they exercise in a big room. My child’s health is as important as any other and the health of all of our children depends on adequate physical education in school.”

“Quality physical education must be a fundamental course for every New York City student,” said Yuki Courtland, a member of the American Heart Association’s Advocacy Committee.  “The American Heart Association recommends that young people participate in at least an hour of daily physical activity, half of which should presumably be available during the school day.  Physical education establishes a platform for sustained cardiovascular fitness, and helps to plant the seeds for a lifetime appreciation for exercise and other healthy behaviors.  It shouldn’t matter where a child goes to school, what neighborhood they are from, or how wealthy their parents are.  As long as the state laws for physical education are allowed to be ignored, disparities in childhood obesity rates and related health outcomes will persist.  Every student in New York City deserves quality PE!”

“We know that physical education is critical for children’s health and wellness.  We know physical education is key to children’s academic success, and teaches them other important life skills such as teamwork and social skills,” said Stephanie Gendell, Associate Executive Director for Policy and Government Relations at Citizen’s Committee for Children. “We know that physical education is required by state law. Unfortunately, we also know from every review or audit conducted, that NYC is woefully out of compliance with the State’s requirements for physical education in schools.  This is why we need to pass Proposed Intro 644 so that we can ensure we have all the data necessary to address this problem, hire enough physical education teachers, and ensure there is enough space and class time for physical education- in every NYC public school, for every student.”

“Many young people in New York are not receiving the quality and quantity of physical education that they need,” said Michael Davoli, Metro New York director of government relations for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). “Physical education not only will help reduce the number of our children who are obese, it also will help these students lead longer healthier and happier lives. As overweight children grow older, they have a much greater risk than their healthy weight peers of developing and dying from chronic diseases in adulthood like cancer. New York lawmakers have a responsibility to help ensure all students have access to quality physical education. ACS CAN supports increasing the quality and quantity of physical education minutes in NYC schools beyond the current state mandate.  As a first step we ask the City Council to pass Proposed Intro.644-A, sponsored by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley.”

“PE teachers from our schools have identified three significant barriers to delivering a quality PE program that meets the state mandate: There is not enough time in the schedule for all students to get enough PE each week, the gym space is often shared by multiple schools, and there are not enough PE teachers to meet the needs of all the students,” said Charmaine Ruddock, Project Director for Bronx Health REACH at the Institute for Family Health. “The Bronx continues to rank in last place in New York State health outcomes and health factors according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s County Health Rankings Report, and we believe that the inability of the NYC DOE to provide adequate physical education to schoolchildren contributes to these health disparities.”

“Our children have a right to healthy, active lives – and that starts with healthy, active schools,” said Sascha Murillo, Community Organizer in the Health Justice program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, and a representative of the PE for All Coalition. “The New York City Department of Education is not meeting its legal obligation to provide K-12 students with the physical education they deserve. Access to quality PE improves health and educational outcomes. Therefore it is important that the city ensure equitable access to quality PE in NYC schools, especially in low-income communities of color. We hope that passage of Intro. 644, the PE reporting bill, will spur the City to improve physical education, and to tackle health and educational disparities among New York City children.”

“Using limited data supplied by DOE, the analysis by the Women’s City Club of New York found disturbing inequities in the distribution of PE staff and space throughout our city schools, ” said Amy J. Schwartz, with the Women’s City Club of New York’s Physical Education in NYC Public Schools Task Force. “Passage of this resolution will give us the complete data needed to understand the breadth of the inequities and start making meaningful improvements.  It’s time to stop short-changing our children – the State mandate guarantees them to have a full PE curriculum, and qualified teachers.”

“Phys Ed is an integral part to the development of the whole child and should be part of the daily educational routine for all NYC children,” stated Brian Semonian of Phys Ed Plus. “PE is not athletic development, a quality lesson plan from a certified PE teacher develop all 3 domains of learning: Cognitive, Affective and Psychomotor, while allowing students to develop lifelong healthy habits.”

“Under New York state law, physical education is part of a “sound basic education,” a set of educational rights guaranteed by the state constitution” said Michael A. Rebell, Executive Director at The Campaign for Educational Equity at Teachers College Columbia University. “The findings from our extensive school-based and legal research are clear: inadequate staffing and facilities for physical education, particularly among co-located schools, have resulted in widespread violations of children’s educational rights.”

“Bon Secours New York Health System supports equal access to physical education for all public school students,” said Ian Christner of Bon Secours New York Health System. “A cornerstone of population-level health programming is to ‘make the healthy choice the easy choice.’  As such, we urge the New York City Department of Education to play its part in addressing inequalities in health outcomes by providing the state-mandated level of physical education for all students.  If approved, Bill #664 will help ensure the Department of Education is meeting the state’s physical education requirements for all public school students.”

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For press inquiries please contact:

Maggie Hayes, 212-788-7381, mhayes@council.nyc.gov

Gigi Kwon, 212 784 5706, GKwon@GroupGordon.com

 


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