(NASHVILLE), March 24, 2017 – Legislation which aims to ensure that elementary students are receiving adequate physical activity while at school overcame its first hurdle this week with approval by the Senate Education Committee. The Tom Cronan Physical Education Act requires each student in elementary school participate in a physical education class (PE) at least twice a week for a combined total of no less than 60 minutes.
Senate Bill 558 is sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro) and Representative Roger Kane (R-Knoxville). The bill is named for the late Dr. Thomas Cronan, who was Professor Emeritus of Exercise Physiology at Carson-Newman College and a lifelong promoter of wellness. He was the husband of former University of Tennessee Women’s Athletics Director Joan Cronan, who with Coach Pat Summitt, led the Lady Vols to multiple national basketball championships.
Obesity is one of the most pressing health concerns in Tennessee. The state ranks 49th in the United States in physical inactivity and 47th in obesity. The percentage of overweight/obese students is highest for 6th graders.
“Evidence shows that children who are physically active and fit tend to perform better in the classroom,” said Sen. Ketron. “It improves their concentration, cognitive functioning, and self-esteem, not to mention the health benefits by establishing healthy habits at an early age. It’s time to change the culture of the school to blend academics and PE.”
“Physical activity is beneficial in so many ways,” stated Rep. Kane. “It not only improves physical health but also academic performance.”
Under the legislation, the PE class must be taught by a teacher with a physical education endorsement and must meet the needs of students. The legislation also requires local education agencies (LEAs) to verify compliance with the act annually.
“The Tom Cronan Physical Education bill will make a difference in young people’s lives,” Mrs. Cronan told committee members. “The facts show one in three of our school children is obese. Seventy-four percent are not ready to go to the military… One of the things that Coach Summitt taught us is that discipline makes a difference. I think when we look at our elementary students and what they can do to get better and represent us, not only in the military, but in life, I feel strongly that physical education provides that.”
U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Eden Murrie, a Nashville resident, testified about physical education and obesity as it affects national security. “We need today’s youth to be ready to successfully serve our nation tomorrow in the armed forces or in a variety of different ways. As simple as it sounds, PE is a necessary tool for our youth,” she said.
Obesity is the leading medical disqualification in the armed forces with nearly one out of three young people being too overweight to serve.
The bill is scheduled to come before the House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee on Wednesday.