Gambling with our Future, Part 1: An Alarming Downward Trend in America’s Concern for Physical Education


Editor’s Note: This is the first part of our two-partpe-infographic series about how physical education has been impacted by national budget cuts. To read Part 2, please click here.

As the nation’s budget for the 2012 fiscal year is enacted  and public services across the board fear deep cuts due to the joint select committee’s (some call it the “super committee”) failure to agree on how to lower the nation’s deficit in November, it’s an understatement to say that physical education has a tall, craggy mountain to climb in the coming years to improve our nation’s health—in more ways than one.

What’s been simmering in the bureaucratic stew of budget, debt, spending, cutting, regulating, and lawmaking of late? What are the implications for our children, our nation’s future?

It’s not news to anyone that the economic climate of the past half decade has been burdensome for all sectors, especially public education. According to the White House, between August of 2008 and August of 2011, 300,000 teaching jobs were lost—that’s 54 percent of all jobs lost in local government. A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that local government education lost 113,000 jobs in 2011 alone, accounting for 40 percent of job losses in government.

If automatic spending cuts are enacted for the 2013 fiscal year as a result of our polarized Congress’ inability to agree on budgetary issues, education faces $3 billion in cuts. That means additional teachers will lose jobs and programs will be cut. Historically, the first of which have been the arts and physical education.

This would throw salt on an already slow-to-heal wound: from sea to shining sea, each state is hurting enough.

The Pennsylvania Association of School Business found that 44 percent of schools reduced elective offerings and 70 percent increased class sizes. In York, PA, arts and physical education classes were cut, forcing other teachers to implement these activities into their curriculum.

In Los Angeles, physical education class sizes rose to 80 students in some cases, making effective teaching nearly impossible. Only 31 percent of California students passed a state-wide physical fitness test last year, in part because of budget cuts wiped out physical education programs. In a 2011 survey released by the California State PTA, 75 percent of California PTA members said their children’s PE or sports programs were cut or reduced dramatically.

With over a third of the nation’s youth and adult population overweight or obese, now is not the time to do away with physical education or treat it as a frivolous, useless “elective.” The Shape of the Nation Report, a study conducted every five years by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association (AHA) states:
“Physical education classes focus on physical activity—running, dancing and other movement but physical education also includes health, nutrition, social responsibility, and the value of fitness throughout one’s life.”

Physical education gives our youth the necessary tools to remain healthy in many aspects throughout their lifetime. The downward trend in America’s health is clearly related to the downward trend of American education and the attitude that PE is not a core academic concern.

What are the implications of this devastating trend? Please stay tuned for Part 2, in which we will explore the many effects suffering physical education causes.