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Oregon Lawmakers Consider Bill To Delay, Relax Physical Education Requirements

<p>In this Dec. 11, 2012, file photo, students hold their position during a yoga class at Capri Elementary School in Encinitas, California.</p>

Gregory Bull, File

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In this Dec. 11, 2012, file photo, students hold their position during a yoga class at Capri Elementary School in Encinitas, California.

Oregon schools might get a break when it comes to providing physical education classes. Ten years ago, state lawmakers approved a bill mandating how much P.E. time children in grades K through 8 must get each week. That requirement is scheduled to kick in this fall.

But the Oregon Department of Education says most districts aren't anywhere near meeting the standards. A measure now under consideration would give districts five more years to catch up. Senate President Peter Courtney, a strong advocate for physical education in schools, told the Senate Education Committee Tuesday that he's not convinced of the need to give districts more time. "Ten years is more than long enough. School districts knew this was coming and should have been working towards these goals," he said.

But Courtney says he might end up supporting the bill, which would also allow districts to reduce physical education instruction during times of budget cuts.

That section of the bill was important to school district officials. "We needed to create a safety valve that would allow school districts to fall below the minutes in recessionary times," said Morgan Allen, a lobbyist for the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. "Let's say we had another Great Recession, and schools were facing significant cuts again: We would not be able to make any reductions to P.E., which would amplify the reductions in other areas."

The original 2007 bill that created the physical education requirements did not contain any specific penalties for districts that aren't in compliance. But state educational standards of any kind can theoretically be enforced by threatening cuts in state funding.

An Oregon Department of Education report issued in 2015 concluded that "one of the road blocks for school districts in reaching the minute requirements outlined in (the 2007 law) is the lack of physical education facilities. School districts need additional facilities to increase the amount of class time available to students."

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Chris Lehman covers the Oregon state capitol for JPR as part of the Northwest News Network, a group of 12 Northwest public radio organizations which collaborate on regional news coverage. Chris graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He began his career producing arts features for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana and has been a reporter/announcer for NPR station WNIJ in DeKalb, Illinois. Chris has also reported from overseas, filing stories from Iraq, Burkina Faso, El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Zimbabwe and Uganda.