Hey, did you hear the news? The principal of Lakeside High School has been reassigned to the central office.
No, Jeff Carney still has his job. It was Crawford Lewis, the principal of the other Lakeside High School - the one in Dekalb County - who was transferred this past week. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.
Apparently, a lot of people weren't paying attention when Georgia's senators recently passed SB 474, the "Student Health and Fitness Act." Hopefully more of them are now waking up to protest this incredibly ignorant threat to enrichment programs in schools all over the state.
Among its worst micromanaging provisions, the bill, if passed in the House, would mandate 150 minutes per week of physical education in elementary schools, and 225 minutes per week in middle schools.
Most schools are just able to juggle the state's current PE requirements to make room for enrichment programs, especially music and art. At some elementary and middle schools this also includes foreign language.
If this bill becomes law, the juggling will become impossible. The new mandate means an additional half-hour per week of PE in elementary school. Where does that extra half-hour come from? You guessed it.
And it's much harder for middle schools, which are able to squeeze the current mandate of 18 weeks of health and physical education annually within a framework of "Connections" enrichment classes.
"The new requirement of 225 minutes weekly at the middle school level will have a significant impact on our Connections classes, particularly for students enrolled in band, chorus and foreign language," says Superintendent Tommy Price.
There are only so many hours in the school day, and every time the state issues another one-size-fits-all specification for how that time is used, the minutes have to come from somewhere.
Because it can't come out of academic core time, the extra mandated PE would cannibalize enrichment programs.
"The school day and curriculum are literally stuffed with every possible mandated and desired coursework," says Steve Pruitt, Riverside Middle School's band director. "There simply isn't enough time in the school day without taking time away from other classes that have suddenly become non-essential.'"
The push for more PE is a knee-jerk reaction to the "obesity epidemic" among children. The idea that "kids are fat, so make 'em run laps" isn't far removed from lawsuits against McDonalds: Both would use the hammer of government to attack the problem of chunky children as if it were just another public-policy nail.
More PE won't make a dent, however, as long as kids can still buy sugar-filled drinks from vending machines that feed money to the schools, and while their only exercise at home after school consists of pushing buttons on an X-Box controller.
I can see it now: Flabby Frankie trudges in from school: "Mom, I'm tired from all that PE." "Aw, honey; here are some cookies and Cheetos and Mello-Yello; why don't you go rest in front of the TV until dinner time? We're having pizza!"
We have met the enemy, and it looks like a mom with a Twinky.
One thing is sure: If the Georgia House passes this bill and the governor signs it, those fatties won't be spending their afternoons tootling a horn for band practice. Jacking up the PE mandate would gut music programs.
Jeff Carney is still the principal at Lakeside High. If my fellow band parents don't wake up, and this bill passes, Carney and other principals may want to take a break during halftime at future football games. Without middle-school band programs to teach young musicians the fundamentals, the quality of high school bands will suffer - and inflict that reduced quality on the audience.
When that happens, we can thank lawmakers who have a tin ear for well-rounded education, yet think their nanny-state legislation can slim down too-rounded children.
To offer your views on SB 474 as it comes up for consideration in the Georgia House, contact your Columbia lawmakers:
State Rep. Ben Harbin, (404) 463-2247; firstname.lastname@example.org
State Rep. Barry Fleming, (404) 656-5024; email@example.com
State Rep. Sue Burmeister, (404) 656-5024; firstname.lastname@example.org
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comment to email@example.com.)
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