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State lawmakers are being asked to leave schools' physical education requirements out of the "grand bargain" budget resolution that's being negotiated in the Illinois Senate.
Senate Bill 13, one of the bills that are packaged in the "grand bargain," primarily focuses on a property tax freeze. But it also allows school districts to reduce physical education requirements to three days a week, and would expand exceptions available to high school students who participate in extracurricular physical activities.
At an event in Springfield Wednesday, former U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart of Belleville, a retired Army major general, said he applauds bipartisanship in solving the state's budget crisis, but it shouldn't be an excuse to roll back the country's national readiness.
"Do we really want to do that, when we have a statewide and a nationwide epidemic of obesity?" Enyart asked. "Let's not have a setback in our national readiness, and in our national health. PE is essential to our public education system, and is part of the state's duty to our nation."
According the the U.S. Department of Defense, 71 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds in Illinois and across the country are ineligible for military service. Nearly a third are ineligible because they're overweight or obese.
Additionally, the National Survey of Children's Health found that Illinois adolescents, ages 10-17, have the ninth-highest rate of obesity in the country.
Enyart was joined by other military brass as part of Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit, nonpartisan national security organization that works to ensure American security and prosperity in the upcoming generation of American children.
Currently, Illinois requires daily physical education for all students in grades K-12. Even with the requirement in place, only 25 percent of high school students in Illinois get the recommended hour of daily physical activity, according to Mission: Readiness.
Mark Peysakhovich, senior government relations director at the American Heart Association, said he agrees with Enyart and believes that PE requirements shouldn't be reduced in Illinois schools.
"There's a grand bargain being discussed, and if that grand bargain shortchanges children's health, it's not much of a bargain at all," he said.
- Contact Brian Robbins: 782-3095, email@example.com, twitter.com/brianrobbins9.