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Phys. Ed. Guidelines Coming Soon to Virginia Schools?

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed legislation in March 2011 that would have required the state's public schools to provide 150 minutes of physical education a week for K-8 students.

While a mandate on physical education hasn't gained any more traction, a bill working its way through the state legislature has lifted the spirits of some phys. ed. advocates, according to the Daily Press.

The bill, if passed, would require the Virginia board of education to develop guidelines for the incorporation of physical education into public elementary and middle schools by January 1, 2014.

Del. John O'Bannon, one of the two sponsors of last year's scuttled phys. ed. legislation, introduced this bill back in January. Eighty-one of the 98 delegates in the House voted in support of the bill in early February, and the Senate approved it unanimously in late February.

After negotiating the bill with McDonnell, the bill is set to return to the legislature next week for another vote, according to the Daily Press. Both chambers are expected to pass the bill, and the governor is expected to sign it, the paper reports.

"It's a baby step," said Aimee Seibert, spokeswoman for the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, to the paper. "We really want the younger children to get educated about physical education. We're taking a holistic approach. Schools are where they spend so much of their day."

Why would McDonnell sign this bill after vetoing last year's? This year's bill doesn't make the phys. ed. mandatory for all schools—it just requires the state board to develop guidelines.

After vetoing last year's legislation, which McDonnell called "an unfunded mandate," he 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."

A companion bill in the Senate similar to the House legislation was vetoed by the governor on Monday, as it called for the state board to develop "regulations" regarding school phys. ed. instead of guidelines.

"This bill without all of the amendments I proposed creates the inference of required physical education programs in public schools, which we cannot require at this time," McConnell said.

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