By Roanoke College News

Roanoke College professor, students lobby Capitol Hill legislators for health, physical education support

Roanoke College professor Dr. Michael Maina and five Roanoke students visited Washington, D.C., to advocate for legislation that supports health and physical education in schools and restores federal funding for certain programs.

Roanoke students, Jake Brabham, Damon Daniels, Ray Dougherty, Candice Fisher and Kailey Sitzberger, all health and physical education majors, joined SHAPE America, which is the Society of Health and Physical Educators, for its annual SPEAK Out lobby events on Feb. 10 and 11.

Roanoke representatives, along with health professionals from 37 states, met face-to-face with lawmakers to help ensure that health and physical education are included in the federal education law known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which is up for reauthorization in Congress.

This year, SHAPE America is trying to secure support for designating school health and physical education as core academic subjects and  urge legislators to bring the only federal funding for physical education, the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP), back to its original funding level of $100 million. The funding decreased for fiscal year 2015 to an all-time low of $47 million.

"I see day in and day out the impact physical education has on all aspects of a student's life, from improved academics and behavior in the classroom, to increased confidence to excel in other endeavors, both personal and academic, as well as the obvious proven health benefits of being physically active," said Maina. "One of our goals at Roanoke College is to provide our Health and Physical Education pre-service teachers with numerous experiences to advocate for their intended profession." 

Maina said numerous school districts in the Roanoke Valley have received the Carol M. White Physical Education grant.

Currently only six states require physical education in all grades K-12 and many states do not provide adequate health education instruction time as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Past participation from SHAPE America members has been critical in securing Congressional support for elevating health and PE to core subject status. Members have also been successful in encouraging their lawmakers to keep PEP from being cut out of the federal budget altogether. 

For more event details, visit www.shapeamerica.org. 

-Published Feb. 11, 2015