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Senate Ed. Committee Approves ESEA Amendment Renewing Phys. Ed. Program

During a markup of the proposed ESEA rewrite Wednesday, the Senate education committee unanimously passed an amendment that would reauthorize funding for the Carol M. White Physical Education Program.

Though the original bill dubbed physical education a "core subject"much to the delight of phys. ed. advocates—it contained no language about the so-called PEP, which the U.S. Department of Education uses to award grants to local education agencies and community-based organizations for the development of physical education and nutrition programs. Over the past five years, the Ed. Dept. has awarded somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million annually via the PEP, including 76 grants worth over $35 million in September 2011 and 56 grants worth roughly $27 million in July 2012.

According to the program's website, projects that receive grants "must be designed to help students meet its state's physical education standards by undertaking instruction in healthy eating habits and good nutrition and at least one of the authorized physical activities." Such activities include fitness education, development of cognitive concepts about physical fitness, and/or "opportunities to develop positive social and cooperative skills through physical activity participation," among other approaches.

During the second day of the markup, the PEP amendment was packaged in with other amendments deemed to be non-controversial—which you can read more about on our Politics K-12 blog—all of which passed unanimously via a voice vote. Phys. ed. advocates voiced their excitement on Twitter following the vote:

Earlier this year, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity sent a letter to the Senate HELP committee imploring them to maintain funding for the PEP in the proposed ESEA overhaul. Without doing so, the coalition warned, "many students will lose the only support they receive for physical education programs, the cornerstone for increasing the overall quantity of physical activity in schools." The coalition specifically highlighted the 37 percent funding cut PEP suffered during fiscal year 2015 appropriations as reason to maintain a dedicated funding stream.

Though much work remains to be done before the proposed ESEA rewrite becomes law, phys. ed. advocates are currently batting 2-for-2 when it comes to their desired outcomes.

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