New Mexico is wrestling with complicated education issues these days, from social promotions to teacher performance standards and, of course, funding woes.
It seems there are no right answers, even within political factions.
But it’s hard to imagine anyone would disagree with Senate Bill 122, which would allow school districts to substitute a physical student activity such as cheerleading or marching band for a government-defined “physical education” class.
Seems our state lawmakers in 2003 decided every public school student should have at least one official PE credit to qualify for graduation. Our kids are too fat, lawmakers declared, and so physical activity would fix that.
The only thing stranger than thinking childhood obesity could be overcome with an edict from Santa Fe is that New Mexico’s Education Department has decided marching band and other physically demanding extracurricular activities shall not count as PE.
A Nov. 4 memorandum from Secretary of Education designate Hanna Skandera to New Mexico superintendents and directors of state charter schools warns “no senior should expect to graduate without the required PE credit.”
SB 122 does not attempt to sidestep lawmakers’ intention that every student have at least one physically active class; it only broadens the definition to include cheerleading, Junior Reserve Officers Reserve Training Corps and other physically demanding classes.
As it stands, a student already taking a rodeo class might choose to drop an academic class to secure the PE class required for graduation. “This does not benefit our students,” said Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, who co-sponsored SB122.
The Education Department for nearly a decade used common sense and allowed students to substitute PE classes and still graduate, but with all the serious problems we have educating our young people these days, of course, it will crack down on those who try to avoid PE after this school year.
We may never be able to agree on the best ways to evaluate teachers or whether one-size-fits-all testing standards can reflect advancements in learning, but surely lawmakers can agree a rodeo class or cheerleading participation should count as a physical-education class.
Then again, common sense is often in short supply in Santa Fe, where new laws are routinely needed to fix old laws that didn’t work out so well.