Federal Federal File

Policymakers Take Phys. Ed. Break

By David J. Hoff — July 28, 2008 1 min read

If Congress had reauthorized the No Child Left Behind Act by now, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings might be crafting rules to carry out the new law, and lawmakers might be debating how much money to spend on it.

Instead, lawmakers last week were sweatin’ to the oldies with the fitness phenomenon Richard Simmons, and Ms. Spellings was practicing putting with the professional golfer Phil Mickelson.

With the NCLB law off the agenda until next year, federal officials are looking for ways to show that they’re addressing important K-12 issues.

On July 24, the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids—or FIT Kids—Act, which would require states and districts to report on the amount and quality of physical education they offer their students. Witnesses included Mr. Simmons (who coyly hinted he may run for Congress), former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown, and other experts on physical fitness.

“Everyone isn’t a jock, but everyone can be fit,” Mr. Simmons told the panel. “It’s important that you have your health, and right now our children don’t have it.”

After the two-hour hearing, Mr. Simmons changed out of his business suit and into his normal attire—dolphin shorts and a sequined tank top—to lead a rally with Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., the sponsors of the FIT Kids Act. He led the group, made up mostly of congressional interns and aides, in a brief workout near the U.S. Capitol.

Two days earlier, Mr. Mickelson gave a putting lesson to the education secretary in front of the Department of Education’s headquarters. Later that day, the 2006 Masters champ testified with other advocates for math education before the House education panel. Mr. Mickelson highlighted a curriculum he’s developed that teaches math concepts by studying a golfer’s swing. (“Math, Science, and Golf School”, Aug. 1, 2007.)

Neither hearing answered questions about the future of testing, accountability, and other significant issues under the NCLB law. But Rep. Kind is optimistic that the House will approve the FIT Kids bill this year.

A version of this article appeared in the July 30, 2008 edition of Education Week

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