IL bill would make PE requirement a local decision

Illinois State Rep Ron Sandack from Downers Grove, along with two other Republicans, has introduced a bill in Illinois’s General Assembly that would lift the state requirement that students complete four years of physical education in high school, making the PE requirement an entirely local decision, to be decided by each district’s board of education, the Daily Herald reports.

The proposed legislation would only allow a student to be excused by the local board if that student is enrolled in at least two Advanced Placement (AP) courses. Mr Sandack hopes a change in the law will give school districts greater flexibility to schedule a PE curriculum that works best for each student.

Several PE teachers attended a hearing in Springfield on March 11, most of them saying HB 2536 is a bad idea. “You’re telling me you’re going to let a school board or parents decide every year how much PE and English and math you’re going to have?” the paper quoted one former gym teacher as saying. “School boards have agendas, depending on who’s on the board.”

Most school districts already allow students enrolled in marching band and various athletic activities to be excused from PE during those seasons. Some at the meeting said it’s not easy to schedule fine arts classes along with rigorous academic courses if high school students have to take gym all four years.

From personal experience, I can say I had to forego a year of math so I could enroll in two music classes my senior year. I got the math by other means, but I would have liked to have been able to take an additional math class alongside other students. Instead, I had to play basketball, swim, and dance in PE class. This daily hour of physical activity didn’t prevent morbid obesity, because I hated PE.

Mr Sandack cosponsored similar legislation last year, legislation that never made it and simply died when the session ended. Maybe this year will be different. The Daily Herald reported that a vote could come next week.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.