When it comes to physical education in classrooms, the US is behind the curve
Posted On June 17, 2021
The US is lagging behind in terms of physical education opportunities in schools.
That has prompted a petition to the White House to help it get back on track, with one advocate citing concerns that a lack of funding is holding back US teachers.
The petition, launched by educator and former teacher Jocelyn Mazzarella, argues that the lack of physical and mental health support for teachers is preventing schools from implementing physical education programs, and that physical education curricula are “inadequate” for students.
“While the US Department of Education’s Physical Education Initiative provides a wide range of tools to teachers, it is the absence of sufficient funding that has held back the US from taking the next step in its effort to promote physical education,” Mazzeria wrote.
“Many of the schools in the US lack access to adequate funding for physical education equipment and facilities, which has been a significant barrier to the continued implementation of physical educational programs in the country.”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has made it clear that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is “in the process of revising” the current funding formula for school physical education.
“We are committed to providing funding to schools to help them ensure that their physical education curriculum is effective for students, and supports staff,” a spokesperson told Polygon.
“These funds will allow schools to implement programs that will better meet the needs of students, parents, and the community.”
In 2015, the Obama administration announced $1.5 billion for a physical education program, which was meant to include physical education teachers and administrators, as well as paraprofessionals, but not physical education instructors.
The program will be scaled back, and will focus on improving physical education for students with disabilities, including people with learning disabilities.
The US spends around $300 million per year on physical education and physical education instruction, but is behind in its efforts.
In the 2017-2018 school year, the Department for Education’s budget for physical instruction was $1,890 per pupil, and for physical activity in schools, the budget was $3,500 per student.
“The US has a significant number of students who have learning disabilities, and many of them live in low-income communities, so a significant amount of money is needed to improve their physical skills and physical environment,” Mazarella wrote.
In the US, there are more than 50,000 physical education courses and activities in schools that teach children how to perform simple movements, like reaching for a ball or holding a cup of water.
In addition, there is an online physical education course available that can be downloaded for free, but has not been updated since 2010.
“In addition to our efforts to improve physical education services in schools and improve access to physical and other learning resources, we are also working to expand access to learning resources like physical equipment and tools for students to perform physical activities, including in the classroom,” the spokesperson said.
“This includes developing a curriculum and providing training and support to schools on how to better equip teachers and students with physical skills.”
In the last year, Congress has put $1 billion into the National School Boards Association (NSBA) to support physical education teacher training, but only a portion of the funding has been spent.
The NSBA is a federation of more than 20 school boards in the United States.
“For the first time, the federal government is investing in the education of children who need physical education education training to ensure their health and well-being,” the NSBA’s executive director, Stephanie Brown, said in a statement.
“Our work with NSBA to support these programs is the most important step in addressing the challenges of physical health in our classrooms.”
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 1 in 6 children in the U.S. have a learning disability, and there are a lot of barriers to learning physical education that include the physical environment, learning disabilities and physical skills.
“There is an epidemic of learning disabilities affecting children and families in our schools and communities,” Brown said.