Physical Education in California Schools

Physical education was first introduced to Elementary schools in the United States in the early 1950s. At first, according to Lumpkin (1985), it was implemented to help students to develop skills in different areas, learn about the different sports, and develop social interactions through group activities.

Back then, it was up to the discretion of the teachers on what physical activities would be done in class, and how much time a day would be given for it. After several years of testing physical education in Elementary, it was seen as a success.

Specialists in the sphere of education started to negotiate to have professional physical education teachers at school in the 1960s. And by 1970, physical education became an integral part of the education system. According to the California State Board of Education Policy #99-03 (1999), “California was the first state to require physical education in public elementary schools.” (para. 8).

In the 1980s, elementary schools were required to have a minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical education (Lumpkin, 1985). This was the requirement over the course of 10 years. Today, the current policy, as stated by Education Code Section 51223, is that elementary schools are required to give 200 minutes of PE class every ten days (California Department of Education, 2015).

With the increase in studies of childhood obesity, physical education plays an important role in promoting healthy lifestyles. Children in elementary school spend most of their day in school. However, P.E. may not be in their everyday curriculum.

Because it is only a requirement to meet 200 minutes every ten days, teachers can decide how to split up those minutes. It may amount to 20 minutes a day, or 50 minutes within four days, etc. While California was the first state to require physical education, it has not upheld that commitment for it.

According to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), the California Department of Education records have revealed between 2004 and 2006, more than half of the state’s schools failed to meet the minimum PE standards (CCPHA, 2006).

Recent data collected from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy also showed that “at least 51% of districts [were] not in compliance with the mandated minutes of P.E. for elementary schools” (Governance & Policy Services, 2006). Both of these studies found that children were not getting the required time for physical education.

Who does it affect?

All elementary school children are affected by the lack of physical education. Physical education not only helps to reduce childhood obesity or other health issues, but it also promotes student’s health. As stated in an article by the California School Boards Association (2006), there has been evidence that supports the idea that “regular physical activity supports learning.”

A particular study mentioned in the Journal of “Sport and Exercise Physiology” found that in California, “higher achievement was associated with higher levels of fitness” (California School Boards Association, 2006).

The longer the children are forced to sit in the same spot, the harder it may become for them to concentrate. Although the study did not show a direct correlation between physical activity and improved academic progress, it is important to note that there was a correlation between regular physical activity and an “improved ability to learn, behaviors in the classroom and achievement” (California School Boards Association, 2006).

It is also important to understand that there has been no research that shows a negative correlation, or, specifically, that P.E. negatively impacts one’s academic success. Exercise directly impacts the behavior and development of the brain.

Why is it important to find a solution now?

It is important to find a solution to increase the amount of time students spend in PE during the school day. Many kids are overweight today, but schools do not provide enough gym time. Physical education requirements keep cutting down, and many schools are waiving physical education to spend more time on math, science, or reading instead.

This may because of the required standardized tests all throughout elementary schools. Physical education is the best time for students to take a nice break since they have to test all day during school hours. According to both the American Academy of Pediatrics and other health experts, they recommend children get at least sixty minutes of exercise each day (Gough, 2015).

Many students may have P.E. three days a week for 30 minutes, some have P.E. for only 40 minutes once a week, which is not enough time, according to the experts mentioned above (Gough, 2015). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost 15 percent of students are overweight (Gough, 2015).

Obesity has impacted students during gym class, they had a harder time just walking around the track at a quick pace. The study by the American Heart Association shows that children take an average of 90 seconds longer to run a mile than what it took children 30 years ago.


First of all, the current goal of this project is to show the reasons why physical education is so important for children in the United States. Obesity is on the rise, while P.E. programs are receiving less funding every year.

Could these two ideas go hand in hand? The goal is to identify the reasons why these cutbacks on P.E. programs are happening. The goal is also to show the result of fewer P.E and how it affects a child’s health and well-being, and what can be done to implement programs back into our elementary schools in California.

With this in mind, it is possible to make a report that shows the main reasons for the cutbacks on PE and outlines a strategic policy that underlines the importance of PE. Additionally, the necessity of the usage of government spending programs should also be outlined.

Children are the future of any nation, and their health and well-being are the essential preconditions for the successful development of the United States. A range of factors causes obesity, with junk food being the primary one.

However, the lack of physical activity also contributes much to the rise of the state’s obesity level. According to the recent report from the California Department of Public Health, today in California, only “16.1% of adolescents and 30.4% of older children spend at least 60 minutes a day on physical exercise” (California Department of Public Health, 2011).

Along with this statistic, this report concluded that about 16% of adolescents are obese (California Department of Public Health, 2011). With the sweeping budget cuts in the educational system, spending on the Physical Education Programs has decreased. The result is that schools lack credentialed P.E. staff members, and P.E. time has been reduced.

Recent data collected from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy also showed that “at least 51% of districts [were] not in compliance with the mandated minutes of P.E. for elementary schools” (Governance & Policy Services, 2006). Instead, academic performance and preparation for graduation are given a higher priority and level of importance.

Due to the modern sedentary lifestyle and increased obesity levels, it is strongly recommended to the government of California to reevaluate its physical education policy. This paper proposes two solutions to help offset these problems – increase taxes and to petition the board of education in California to make changes in support of Physical Education.

Taking into account the trends in the overall health of the Californian children, the school board should change the approach to their policy regarding physical education. Applying Kraft and Furlong’s criteria of good public policy (380), the increase of P.E. funding should be effective (the process of education will be balanced, more opportunities will be created for physical activities), efficient (more money will be spent on preventing obesity and health problems rather than on coping with them) and equitable (healthy children will bring further healthy generations).

Children will become healthier and more successful in their academic performance (Trost & van der Mars, 2010). Bearing in mind that many parents take initiatives in making P.E. obligatory in all school grades (Adams, 2015), this policy will also be socially feasible; the same can be told about political feasibility (Kraft & Furlong, 2013). Raising P.E.’s budgets is also reasonable concerning Popple and Leighninger’s (2011) social work values, among which are the welfare of the people, equality of opportunities, and social justice.

Overall, it can be seen that establishing obligatory physical education in all school grades will help to solve the obesity problem in California. The new policy should ensure the increase in P.E. funding and engagement of the civil society to the process of decision-making in this field.

As it has been said before, one of the ways to solve the problem of students not getting enough physical activity time would be to have an initiative on the ballot to fund the payment of PE teachers and materials that would be needed to increase the effective time of physical education and activity that students receive in school.

The initiative would suggest that the teachers and materials would be funded by taxes. There are many advantages and disadvantages to this solution. One advantage of this solution is that it would pay for PE teachers. One reason there is so little physical activity going on in schools today is that general teachers are in charge of facilitating the physical education of their students.

This is the issue because many of these teachers aren’t qualified to teach PE, and these teachers have so many other expectations they are required to meet that physical education often falls short. If all California schools are required to have a PE teacher, the students would definitely receive the physical education that they currently lack from the general teachers. A disadvantage of this solution is that it might not work.

This solution requires voters to agree that everyone should pay for this solution and that many people might be against it. Voters might not want to vote yes on this initiative because it requires more taxes. If this initiative was not passed and the program would not be funded through taxes, then funding would have to come from another source, which may be difficult to find.

Since we are proposing a bill to require schools to keep up with the Physical Education standards and to reinstitute real PE teachers instead of general teachers, there are many advantages and disadvantages to this solution proposing a bill. The advantage of this solution is that when this bill becomes the law all schools have to abide by the law.

For instance, students are required to have at least twenty minutes of Physical Education exercise each school day. According to California Department of Education (CDE, 2015), schools must provide physical activities for students from grade one to six at least 200 minutes each 10 schooldays.

After this bill has become law, students would have more physical activities during school days. The disadvantage of this solution is proposing a bill might take too long time to processes, and the bill often fail. Long-term process of proposing the bill may caused some problem; it is non-credentialed volunteer provide physical education for student.

“Instruction must be provided by a teacher who holds an appropriate credential which permits him or her to deliver PE instruction” (CDE, 2015). It is very important for the instructors to deliver the right message of Physical Education to the students because it could affect their lifelong habits.

Today, children in the United States participate in less structured time in PE classes than children of the past. (DHHS, 2008). The reason this state lacks quality Physical Education programs is because of the lack of state funding, and pressure on the system to focus funding on academic success. (Symons, Cinelli, James & Groff, 1997, p. 67).

These programs are important to implement in schools in order to keep children healthy. The solution to the lack of funding is the increase in taxes. Increasing taxes can come in several forms. First, a small percentage of 1% state property tax increase dedicated to funding only state PE programs would make a large difference.

According to DRWS, in 2014, 20% of funding for K-12 schools comes from property tax, which is, on average, $3.59 per household. Adding a small percentage to this already instated property tax would be manageable for Californians across the board.

Another way to gain funding would be to increase taxes on unhealthy foods. Research has found that a tax of 1 cent an ounce on sugar-sweetened products actually decreases consummation, which leads to fewer obesity problems across the board. The item that is taxed will then be used to fund the Physical education program in California.

By increasing taxes on unhealthy food and the state property tax in order to help to fund the physical education program is practicable. However, there are some social and political criteria while executing this solution. Thus, the increase of unhealthy food taxes in order to help to fund physical education programs could also help to decrease the number of diabetes or other diseases because it could result in people buying less unhealthy food.

The reason why people are buying fast food or unhealthy food is that it is a lot cheaper than healthy or organic food. However, if we increase the tax on unhealthy food, it will help people who buy less unhealthy food since it is not cheap anymore.

On the other hand, we use this money to fund the physical education program, to help children stay healthy. It is possible to assume that if we increase the tax on state property at least by 1%, people might not like the idea of paying more taxes, especially single families or people who do not have any child.

However, we need to think about our future, if we do not have a good physical education program for our young children after they grow up, they might have a lot of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, overweight, etc. due to lack of exercise. At that time, the government would have to pay even more money to help them by paying their medication, hospitals, food, etc. Therefore, this is a really serious possible problem that would happen if we do not have a good physical education program.

Our recommendation for increasing Physical Education time per week and hiring qualified PE teachers would be to tax unhealthy food items. Physical Education programs are being cut out of many school budgets because PE is not seen as a priority.

Schools are being pushed to perform better academically using standardized testing as a way to measure performance, therefore, funding for public schools is going into academic improvements. Our solution suggests taxing soda by petitioning to put an initiative on the ballot. Since this is a tax to increase Physical Education and increase healthy life choices for children in California, we decided that it was an appropriate choice of funding.

If we implement a 10% tax on Soda, it is hoped that consumption of soda will go down. However, many people will drink soda regardless of the tax, therefore the money from the tax will be used in a positive way by funding the Physical Education program for public schools in California.

In 2014 Berkley was the first city in California to pass a Soda tax law, also known as measure B. The first month of the instated tax, about $116,000 was raised and it was predicted by the end of the year $1.2 Million would be raised from this tax. Berkley’s success with taxing soda can be a model that should be implemented all over California.

Additionally, it is also possible to recommend the implementation of certain evaluative criteria that could be used in order to determine the efficiency of a certain measure, or on the contrary, to outline the problematic conditions.

Having recommended introducing the tax for unhealthy food items, it is possible to say that some criteria to determine its efficiency could be suggested. The first obvious one should be the general level of consumption of this sort of food item. In case of a significant decrease in the amount of soda bought by pupils or children, the suggested decision could be taken as rather efficient one.

Additionally, if to speak about the long-term perspectives, it is possible to say that as far as the main aim of the suggested remedy is to improve the state of health of children and increase the amount of time spent in PE, the rise of these showings could be taken as the great result which could serve as the best evidence of the efficiency of the given method.

Moreover, as we have already stated, there is the problem of obesity, which is peculiar to a great number of modern children. According to our predictions and assumptions, the introduction of some extra taxes on harmful food can lead to the significant improvement of the situation connected with extra weight. Being one of the main reasons for obesity, unhealthy food items should be controlled.

That is why the limitation of access towards these very items might result in the loss of weight of children. Besides, the combination of the loss of weight and increase in the amount of time spent in PE could lead to the appearance of the positive tendency towards the improvement of the state of health of the children and nation.

At the same time, money saved due to the refusal to buy unhealthy food could be spent on some other issues that could have a positive impact on the state of health of a person. It should also be said that manufacturers and distributors of unhealthy food could suffer from some losses. Though, it is possible to recommend the creation of some compensation from the government as it should be interested in the improvement of the state of health of the nation.


Children of California are not provided with the appropriate amount of Physical Education time and credentialed teachers due to lack of funding. Petitioning to put the soda tax on the ballot to fund the Physical Education Departments throughout California, will be beneficial to all PE programs in every county.

The tax will be left in the hands of each county, and the funds will be distributed equally to every public school. Each school principal or school board is then in charge of hiring well trained credentialed PE teachers, and increasing Physical education minutes, as well as providing new and better equipment.

Additionally, it should be said that the creation of a certain bill, which should regulate relations within the school and the attitude towards the issue of PE, should also have a positive impact on the current situation. Our suggested solutions might help to achieve significant progress in the given sector.

We have stated that the loss of weight because of the introduction of extra taxes on unhealthy food and an increase in the amount of time spent in PE, which results from the creation of a certain bill, could be taken as the evidence of suggested remedies.

Moreover, one should remember about money that could be saved in case of the refusal to buy unhealthy food. This money could be spent on some other issues that could help to improve the health of children. With this in mind, it is possible to say that Implementing this plan into our Public schools will make our children in California live longer and healthier lives.


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