LETTER SIGNED BY 34 COUNCIL MEMBERS CALLS ON CHANCELLOR WALCOTT TO BRING PHYSICAL EDUCATION PROGRAM UP TO STANDARDS, REDUCE DISPARITIES IN LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES
As the Bloomberg administration promotes its proposed ban on the sale of large sugary drinks, Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Letitia James have spearheaded a letter to NYC Department of Education Chancellor Walcott highlighting deficiencies in the City’s physical education (PE) program. The letter, which was signed by 32 other Council Members, points to several studies indicating that the city’s children, particularly in low-income communities of color, are not receiving the minimum required gym classes, despite the important role that regular physical activity plays in reducing obesity.
“With all the attention being placed on the Bloomberg administration’s proposed soda ban, we felt that there was a larger story to tell about how other policy choices by this administration are contributing to the obesity epidemic in this City,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The disparities between our city’s neighborhoods when it comes to physical education are unacceptable. We look forward to working with the DOE to achieve a marked improvement in the City’s physical education program, particularly in low-income communities of color.”
“Unlike the administration’s ‘soda ban’, the expansion of physical fitness activities and education in schools will go far to teach the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle from an early age.” said Council Member Letitia James, who has been working with “Let’s Move Brooklyn” (part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s national youth fitness campaign) this summer, speaking at their educational panel as well as hosting the “Brooklyn Olympic Fun Day Events” in Bedford-Stuyvesant last month.
According to a recent New York Times article, one in five city high school students reported not having gym class in an average week. Additionally, none of the 31 elementary schools visited by the NYC Comptroller’s Office last year met New York State standards on PE. And a 2012 study conducted by the NYC Strategic Alliance for Health found only 6 out of 74 elementary schools studied were meeting state requirements.
The New York State Education Department requires that PE classes be held every day for students in grades K to 3, and three times a week for grades 4 to 6, for a minimum of 120 minutes a week; and at least 90 minutes a week for grades 7 and 8. Three gym classes a week are required for grades 7 through 12 in one semester, and twice a week in another.
The communication to the Chancellor requested that his office provide the Council with data on the City’s PE program; clarification on the DOE’s policy on PE in co-located schools; and information regarding the DOE’s strategy to improve PE in schools and reduce PE disparities across neighborhoods.