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Decision Virginia Archive 8/08- 7/12

McDonnell vetoes mandatory physical education bill

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Just breaking from the State Capitol… Governor Bob McDonnell uses his veto pen for the first time in this session. He has rejected a plan by the General Assembly to require Virginia public schools to offer physical education.

The governor called the bill “an unfunded mandate”.

His full release can be found below:

Governor McDonnell Vetoes Unfunded Mandate on Localities

Mandatory Physical Education Bill Would Cost Local School Districts Millions; Take Time Away from Instruction in Other Subjects

McDonnell: “While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond.  In the fight against childhood obesity and preventable disease, we all have a role to play. Government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem go away. Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court.”

RICHMOND – Governor Bob McDonnell has vetoed legislation (SB 966) that would force local school districts to provide 150 minutes of physical education per week for all students in elementary and middle school by the year 2014. The state mandate was strongly opposed by local school districts and teachers concerned about the financial impact of its implementation.

Speaking about his decision Governor McDonnell noted, “In my Inaugural Address I stated very clearly that Washington does not always know better than Richmond, and, equally, that Richmond does not always know better than Fairfax or Galax. I have long opposed significant unfunded mandates passed from one level of government to another. Thus, I cannot in good conscience sign this legislation.”

“While the objective of this legislation is laudable, the proposed means of accomplishment is problematic.  Education officials advised me that this measure would cost them tens of millions of dollars. Fairfax County estimates the fiscal impact at $18-24 million; Chesterfield County places their potential costs at $6.9 million,” the Governor remarked. “In addition, this mandated time for physical education would exceed the time dedicated to any other subject in our public school system, and potentially cut into crucial time in the classroom needed for instruction in math, science, history and reading.  Our local school districts are facing tough budgetary times, and we simply cannot ask them now to incorporate an expensive new policy with no new funding.”

The Governor continued, “I am a strong proponent of the importance of exercise for our young people. My wife, Maureen, has made combating childhood obesity and inactivity, and promoting preventative healthcare, one of her chief issues as Virginia’s First Lady. However, we should not attempt to achieve important goals by disproportionately placing the burden of implementation on others.  While I strongly agree that we must encourage exercise and physical activity, I oppose unfunded mandates, whether they come from Washington or Richmond.  In the fight against childhood obesity and preventable disease, we all have a role to play. Government cannot just pass legislation and make this problem go away. Kids need to get off the couch and away from the computer and onto a soccer field or basketball court. We should look for every opportunity to encourage children to turn off the TV and go outside and play. Our young people should be taught by parents, teachers and mentors about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and to pick active, rather than passive, recreational activities.  I have instructed officials in my administration to look for creative and innovative means by which we can promptly help get our children more physically active, and motivated to exercise on their own. One solution is to utilize mechanisms already in place – through our local School Health Advisory Boards – to create wellness policies for our schools.  This allows for local level decision making based on each localities needs.  I applaud both Senator Ralph Northam and Delegate John O’Bannon for their leadership on health care issues and commitment to improving the health and wellness of Virginia’s children. I have pledged to work with them on this issue as part of a comprehensive review of the curriculum priorities for our public education system over the next year.”

The General Assembly will consider the Governor’s veto when it meets the first week of April for the reconvened session.



UPDATE: A consortium of health care advocates just released the  following statement statement regarding the Governor’s veto.

The Virginia Chapters of the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as the YMCA’s of Virginia issue the statement below regarding Gov. McDonnell’s veto of SB 966.


As Virginia’s leading public health organizations, we are deeply disappointed that Gov. McDonnell has vetoed SB 966 and missed an unprecedented opportunity to help address childhood obesity, a pressing and costly public health crisis.

This important legislation would have required 150 minutes of physical education each week, but did not require schools to hire additional instructors nor build new facilities.  Some school districts in Virginia, including Virginia Beach, have shown that they can offer even more than 150 minutes of physical education each week within their existing budgets and without a negative impact on education in other subjects.

Today, nearly one in three Virginia children is overweight or obese, and Gov. McDonnell has missed an ideal chance to show significant leadership on this problem by vetoing this legislation.

We are grateful for the strong bipartisan support this bill received in the General Assembly. In particular, Sen. Ralph Northam, Del. John O’Bannon, Del. Algie T. Howell, Sen. Louise Lucas, and Sen. John Miller showed strong leadership on this issue.

We will not give up on our fight against childhood obesity – and we will not give up on Virginia’s children.


Written by Ryan Nobles

March 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm

3 Responses

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  1. My bet is that most of Virginia’s overweight children were probably overweight before they even stepped foot into a school. This is an issue for parents, not schools. Seems all the problems of the American family are now dumped on the school systems.


    March 29, 2011 at 1:43 pm

  2. I whole heartedly agree with what the Governor said about unfunded mandates and how it would cost counties around the state millions. This would have had a huge effect on Music and Art in the elementary school. Some of the poor counties in the state might have had to eliminate those positions to meet this mandate. Then you would be putting people out of a job. Why are Teachers expected to solve the problms of society? As the Governor said, Kids need to get off the couch and do something at home. Video games, and TV allow children to lead a sedintary life style. It is a nice idea to address the problem of childhood obesity. I was a TV watcher as a kid and as a result I was nearly obease. As an Adult I was able to bouce back and shed the weight. This made me realize it was not because my public school didn’t offer 150 minutes of P.E. per week. Parents allow children to sit and watch TV and play video games and not encourage them to go out and play. It is not their Teacher’s responsibility to teach them this. It is their parents who are responsible. Even if we had 150 minutes of P.E. per week I don’t believe things would change very much at all. so Va’s leading health organization might be disappointed, but I’m glad he vetoed it. I hope it dies for good. How about the video game companies donate monies to entice children to play outside more and our health professionals push for healthier eating habits with their pacients?

    Robert Smith

    April 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm

  3. […] To view McDonnell’s statement and reaction from area programs and health centers, visit https://nbc12.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/mcdonnell-vetoes-mandatory-physical-education-bill/. […]

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