Fighting for a law mandating physical education in Arizona schools was too political.
An effort to mandate organized recess via legislation failed.
So Tucsonan Steve Gall is trying another tactic. Today - Wednesday, April 7 - he'll testify before a state Senate Committee in favor of proposed legislation that would require school districts to hold public hearings on whether to have 30 minutes of daily organized recess in schools.
Gall, 66, a former physical education teacher who holds a doctorate in physical education, thinks Arizona kids need more exercise. That's why he's a regular volunteer with the Tucson Unified School District, where he puts together organized recess programs.
Gall would prefer to see an Arizona law mandating organized recess. But he believes parents will come out in support if districts are forced to hold public meetings about it.
"When kids take breaks it improves their academics, sportsmanship and behavior," he said. "The kids are more focused. And if it's organized that cuts down on bullying that can happen during unstructured recess."
The only mandated break Arizona schools are required to give students by law is 30 minutes for lunch.
Gall says that's not enough. He believes schools' increased emphasis on academics and test-taking is coming at the expense of children's health — evidenced by a childhood obesity epidemic that's a problem here and nationwide.
"There's no money for phys ed teachers. There are 75 elementary schools in the Tucson Unified School District and only five have certified physical education teachers," Gall said.
"Focusing on recess is our compromise. My dad was a pediatrician. And I'm really concerned that the health of these children is going to bite us in the butt in 10 to 15 years."
Gall is scheduled to talk about his recess proposal at the May 11 meeting of the TUSD board. He's hoping that by then, the legislation forcing school districts to at least consider daily orgnized recess is a law.
Update: The Omnibus Education bill, which includes the longer recess proposal as a rider, passed a senate committee on Wednesday, April 7 and is expected to go to the Senate floor next week.
The Arizona Daily Star will run a two-day special report outlining the local childhood obesity problem and solutions like Gall's beginning Sunday, April 11.