At last week's Hillsboro School Board work session, one of the budget committee members made an interesting suggestion. It only occupied about 30 seconds of the discussion-- but is so eminently sensible, I thought I should highlight it here.
The idea was that we could save money on physical education classes, by making these classes optional for student athletes, giving them PE credit directly for their team sports. I was actually surprised during my school board campaign back in 2009 when I read the local high school catalogs, and found that even varsity athletics doesn't earn a PE credit. This is a great idea for a number of reasons.
- If you have ever known any students who are on athletic teams, you know that between practices and games, they get many more hours of exercise through these activities than they ever could in PE class.
- If you have ever been in a public high school PE class, you know also that the level of actual exercise in these classes is pretty minimal anyway. In fact, judging by the classes from my H.S. days in the 80s, I would bet that the chess team gets more exercise walking to the bus for away tournaments than they do in PE class. (Don't worry, I'm not suggesting PE credit for the chess team, just making a point!)
- Due to the incredible time commitment of high school athletics, taking them away on evenings and weekends when other students would be working on homework, the student athletes could definitely use an extra free study period. And they deserve it, for all the hard work they put in on the field. This would also provide an opportunity for them to fit in extra classes, if they are especially ambitious.
Superintendent Scott said he would look into this issue during the budget discussion. But I think this goes beyond budget: it's simple common sense. Even if the savings are minimal, why should student athletes be forced into busy-work PE classes when there are better educational uses of their time? Although I'm sure the gym teachers will be opposed for obvious reasons, I can't see any sensible arguments against it. The district should enact this reform as soon as posisble, regardless of the actual significance of the budget impact.