Florida Senate Declines to Mandate Elementary School Recess


Florida senators have declined to consider a proposal supported by parents to require elementary school recess statewide.

Though the measure passed the state House last month, the Senate has refused to take up the issue. The failure of the recess bill was the third time this legislative session that the issue arose.

Naturally, parents and children favor having recess; it provides children with opportunities for socialization and a respite in an otherwise repetitious day of in-classroom learning. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on School Health released a report that endorsed mandatory recess, citing numerous social, physical, and mental benefits.

"Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education – not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child's development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."

Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post notes, however, that in an era of high-stakes standardized tests and "accountability-based" school reform, time for recess has been swapped for test-prep sessions and more academic study.

Responding to the roll back of recess, a group of Florida parents, known as "recess moms," spearheaded an initiative to guarantee daily recess. Parents in Miami-Dade County launched an online petition imploring their school district to "restore recess in our schools." The petition has garnered more than 5,200 signatures.

The recess bill, which passed the Florida state house with a decisive majority, says: "… each district school board shall provide 100 minutes of supervised, safe, and unstructured free-play recess each week for students in kindergarten through grade 5… so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day."

When the bill arrived at the Senate, one senator, Sen. John Legg, refused to introduce it to the education policy committee. He calls recess "a local issue" unworthy of being administered at a statewide level. Sen. John Legg is echoing the sentiments of Republicans nationwide who support reducing the influence of state and national government in determining school policy.

Opponents to Sen. Legg are highlighting the fact that the Florida legislature mandates other things for local schools such as physical education and lunch-standards. They want to know why the state can't mandate schools to allocate time for recess.

The Bradenton Herald's Kristen Clark reports that one of Sen. Legg's colleagues, Sen. Alan Hays, announced that he refused to give up on the bill. Sen. Hays is doing his best to try and move the bill through as an amendment of larger policy legislation, but he faces procedural hurdles in doing so.

Currently, the fate of the recess proposals remains unknown. Political observers, however, only expect that the pressure on Florida lawmakers, especially upon those from central Florida where support for mandatory recess is strongest, to increase in the coming days.

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