Mandatory recess bill passes first test through House Education Committee

The Colorado House Education Committee voted today to move forward a bill that would set a physical activity requirement for public elementary schools across the state.

The bill would require Colorado school districts to incorporate a minimum of 30 minutes a day for students in full-day elementary schools.

Currently, Colorado is one of two states that doesn’t require some form of physical education for its students.

Since enactment of No Child Left Behind, educators and parents have voiced concerns that time for physical activity is being squeezed out of the curriculum to make way for the increased focus on standardized testing.

Proponents of the bill point to mounting evidence
that unstructured physical activity time can actually serve as a critical tool in solving behavioral problems, increasing cognitive development and helping to stem the ongoing U.S. childhood obesity epidemic.

In a rare instance of bipartisanship in the Colorado Legislature, the bill sponsors cross party lines, including Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and Rep. Rhonda Fields, D-Aurora.

The bill passed out of committee with nearly unanimous consent.

At the committee hearing Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, said that in the current context of looming K-12 budget cuts, it is important to safeguard physical education for elementary students. “I don’t think one of us could argue that we don’t need our kids to be more active and healthier in school.”

Taran Volckhausen is a freelance journalist who primarily writes about the environment, politics, and drug policy. His work has appeared on National Geographic, Christian Science Monitor, The Intercept, Mongabay, among others. He is also a former editor at Colombia Reports. Twitter: @tvolckhausen

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