GA speaks, Governor vetoes, Chesterfield agrees

The Chesterfield County Public Schools are high on physical fitness but they’re leery of paying for it. The school division supported Gov. Bob McDonnell last week when he vetoed a bill that would mandate that schools provide 150 hours a year to physical education.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), almost 20 percent of children age six to 11 are obese. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “Kids Count” puts the childhood obesity rate at one in three in Virginia. State legislators recognized the growing childhood obesity problem and passed the bill to increase physical education hours. Gov. McDonnell says adding an unfunded mandate to school curriculums would overburden schools in the Commonwealth.

“While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond,” McDonnell said after he vetoed the bill. “In the fight against childhood obesity and preventable disease, we all have a role to play. Government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem go away. Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court.”

Chesterfield schools issued a statement through spokesman Shawn Smith, agreeing with the governor’s decision and underlined the cost additional hours would add.

“Chesterfield Schools strongly support the underlying goal of this legislation to address childhood obesity,” the statement read. “We share the governor’s concern about the unfunded $6.9 million financial consequence this legislation would have on our school division.  We stand ready to assist the governor and General Assembly in other efforts to promote healthy lifestyles for our children.”

According to an article in the in the Washington Post, “Some school district officials oppose[d] the looming requirement saying it could extend the school day, lead to cuts in arts and music classes, or increase costs because additional teachers would be needed.”

McDonnell reiterated his state’s rights mantra.

“In my Inaugural Address I stated very clearly that Washington does not always know better than Richmond, and, equally, that Richmond does not always know better than Fairfax or Galax,” McDonnell said. “I have long opposed significant unfunded mandates passed from one level of government to another.”

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