Protecting Physical Fitness Testing (Budget Item)
Last week, both the Senate and Assembly budget committees supported a proposal to protect all education mandates, including Fitnessgram. While the physical fitness testing mandate is well-positioned coming out of the committees, the issue is not quite a done deal. Statutory changes, which are necessary to implement the spending plan, are achieved through separate legislation called trailer bills. The major questions about Fitnessgram will be dealt with through the ongoing trailer bill process. It remains to be seen how this process will play out, and, ultimately, what the Governor does with all the budget bills sent to him.
Thank you to all those who have spoken out about this critical issue through phone calls and letters to legislators and participation in this year's ENACT Day. And visit the California Center for Public Health Advocacy for further updates.
When it comes to addressing the health epidemic facing California children-such as increasing rates of type 2 diabetes-objective data that illustrates the scope of the problem is critical to securing the support and resources needed to find a solution. Fitnessgram, the annual Physical Fitness Test required of fifth, seventh, and ninth grade students in California public schools, provides precisely this information. The data produced through this annual testing have informed numerous studies, and have been used to make the case for policies and practices that improve student health at both the state and local level. Despite its importance, the Governor's latest budget contains a proposal to eliminate the annual mandate for physical fitness testing in schools, and advocates are working hard to ensure this does not happen.
Here are some talking points to continue to broaden the frame and discussion of this issue:
- Fitnessgram testing helps California address the growing chronic disease epidemic. The data generated from this annual test is the only ongoing, objective, comprehensive source of student health-related fitness data in the state. This information is an invaluable resource for jurisdictions applying for federal chronic disease prevention grants, schools working to improve student test scores, and families identifying fitness and health issues.
- Eliminating Fitnessgram testing is a shortsighted approach to balancing the State budget. The return on investment for this annual testing is significant. In 2009, for every $1 invested in Fitnessgram testing, California Local Education Agencies received $15 in federal and private resources to improve health and fitness programs that benefit students.
- While the data generated through this testing has countless uses for educators, researchers, public health professionals, and parents, among others, the act of integrating physical activity into the school day is of immense value in and of itself. A study published in this month's issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that physical education policy mandates do positively impact fitness levels, and research has consistently shown that physical activity boosts academic performance.
- We can't afford not to invest in our children's health. Preventable illness and chronic disease related to unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity accounts for nearly 17% of our health care costs-that's $168 million a year in medical costs alone. Physical Education fosters a lifetime commitment to health and wellness. It is a critical strategy if we are to reverse unprecedented surges in Type II diabetes and an array of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer.
For those who can't make it to ENACT Day, join us virtually on Twitter on May 16 (@strat_alliance) for updates on the day's events. We'll be live-tweeting throughout the day-using the hashtag #ENACT2012-and invite you to join the conversation.