Massachusetts is moving forward with a plan to remove the mandatory time allocation for physical education classes, despite strong opposition from teachers. Currently, the state requires students in grades 1-10 to have 60 hours of physical education per year, and kindergartners to have 30 hours. The proposal to repeal these regulations was given preliminary approval by the state school board at a recent meeting. The board has allowed for a 60-day comment period before reaching a final decision.
During the meeting, Mimi Murray, a physical education professor at Springfield College, expressed her vehement objections to the proposal, stating that it would be detrimental to the children of the state. She emphasized the importance of physical education for children’s well-being. While most states mandate schools to offer physical education, the required amount of time varies. If the regulations are repealed, Massachusetts would rely on a state law that simply mandates an unspecified amount of physical education for all grades.
Education Commissioner Robert V. Antonucci, in defense of the proposal, argued that physical education is the only subject where the board dictates a specific number of instructional hours. He believes that these rules unnecessarily interfere with the autonomy of school districts. Antonucci clarified that he recognizes the significance of physical education and believes it should be taught in schools, but that it should be left to the discretion of local schools.
Various leaders of teachers’ unions and physical education advocates in the state predict that the removal of the regulations would lead many districts to reduce or eliminate physical education programs to save money, mirroring the cuts that have been made to art and music programs. Andrew Hescheles, advocacy chairman for the Massachusetts Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, expressed concerns that fitness programs would disappear, exacerbating childhood obesity and related health risks. Hescheles and others argued that reducing physical education to allocate more time for academics would be counterproductive.
Judith C. Young, executive director of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, noted that Massachusetts’ time requirements for physical education fall significantly short of the 30 minutes per day recommended by the organization. However, she suggested that repealing the requirements could create an opportunity for parents and teachers to advocate for the importance of a healthy lifestyle on a community level.