Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed legislation on Thursday that would have required Virginia public schools to provide their K-8 students with 150 minutes of physical education per week by 2014, calling it an "unfunded mandate." (See Schooled in Sports' previous coverage of the bill here, here, and here.)
"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 in a press release. "I have long opposed significant unfunded mandates passed from one level of government to another. Thus, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation."
McDonnell cited the potential costs of the mandate ("tens of millions") as one reason for his veto. Fairfax County had previously told McDonnell that the proposed phys. ed. requirements would have cost the district between $18 million and $24 million.
"In addition, this mandated time for physical education would exceed the time dedicated to any other subject in our public school system, and potentially cut into crucial time in the classroom needed for instruction in math, science, history and reading," McDonnell said. "Our local school districts are facing tough budgetary times, and we simply cannot ask them now to incorporate an expensive new policy with no new funding."
McDonnell also said that "government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem [of childhood obesity] go away."
In his statement, the governor pledged to work with the bill's two sponsors, Sen. Ralph Northam and Del. John O'Bannon, "as part of a comprehensive review of the curriculum priorities for our public education system over the next year."
"Let me just say this: I'm disappointed in the veto," O'Bannon told the Associated Press. "I hope the governor holds to his word and will do something about this problem."
The state legislature will reconvene the first week of April and consider the governor's veto. Before moving to McDonnell's desk, the bill advanced through the Senate on a 37-2 vote, and it passed in the House by a vote of 55-40.