AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- To help combat obesity in children, Texas will reinstate mandatory gym class in elementary schools, seven years after it was phased out to allow more time for academics.
Under a rule approved Friday by the Texas Board of Education, elementary school students will be required to take a minimum of 135 minutes of physical education every week.
"We have a childhood obesity problem in the state of Texas that needs to be addressed," state Health Commissioner Eduardo Sanchez said. "One of the places where it might be appropriate for children to get their physical activity is in school. Get them little and it becomes a healthy habit."
Physical education was phased out in Texas elementary schools in 1995, when the Legislature decided to put more emphasis on academic subjects. Other schools across the country did the same thing around the same time.
Texas high school students are already required to take gym to graduate, and a small number of elementary schools elected to continue it. But a new state law put gym back in the elementary school curriculum and directed the Board of Education to come up with a plan to implement it.
On a 13-2 vote, the board decided how much time to devote to physical education.
"Physical education is going to make you learn better, retain what you learn and make better grades, be able to stay in school and be successful," said board member Geraldine Miller.
Board member Alma Allen, one of the dissenters, said pinning schools down to a set number of minutes will burden teachers and cut into students' instruction time.
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