Moms fight for recess bill, Senator won’t let it be heard
Imagine your kids attend public school that does not give children time for recess. What would you do? If you were a group of moms in Florida who call themselves the Recess Moms, you would start a petition that would eventually lead to a bill. You would work tirelessly on that bill — spending hours upon hours and your own money traveling repeatedly to meet with legislators.
Your bill would pass three House committees without opposition.
Then your Senator would shut it down.
That’s what happened last week to a group of moms in Florida who call themselves the Recess Moms. Sen. John Legg refused to allow Florida House Bill 833 to be heard, even though it’s had wide support from teachers and parents alike. He simply told the media: “I am not going to put it on the agenda. It doesn’t merit a Tallahassee solution.”
Some school kids in Florida get no recess. None. Not 2o minutes. Not 10 minutes. Not 5 minutes — nothing. The state doesn’t mandate it, leaving counties to decide whether they’ll allow it for their students. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Everyone knows kids need recess, so the counties are probably assuring that their children get it, right? Not in Florida. Not all states have an issue with recess even though it is not mandated, but because of the high-stakes Florida places on testing, recess has become a big problem for some schools.
In the fall of 2014, Amy Narvaez had a second grader and a kindergartner that were getting 10 minutes of recess, twice a week. When she asked the school why her kids were getting such limited recess, the school said it was a district mandate. She went to the district, who told her it was a it was a state mandate. She went to the state, who pointed their fingers back at the district. The district then told her their time was mandated “minute to minute, bell to bell.” But when she dug deeper she discovered Florida only mandates four hours of instruction for grades K through third, and five hours of instruction for grades four and five. Her kids had six hour school days. Why wasn’t there time for recess? The answer she was given was that schools were scrambling to meet testing requirements, and squeezing the most instructional time out of school days that they could.
She and fellow mom Angela Browning followed the lead of two other Florida counties and started a petition that led to the introduction of Florida House Bill 833: a bill that finally addressed mandating recess in public schools. They began to find out that the schools that had the most vocal parents had recess. Narvaez’s own kids currently get 2o minutes, five days a week. But she still continues fighting, as do all the other Recess Moms, for those families who either don’t have the resources or time to do it themselves.
More and more Florida schools are claiming standards and testing are leaving no spare time for kids to have recess. In January 2014, Orange County Superintendent Barbara Jenkins said, “A mandated 20 minute period is not appropriate for our schools at this point when teachers say they don’t have enough time to get it done.”
HB 833 would require each district school board to provide students in certain grades with consecutive minutes of free play recess per day. The bill would also not allow schools to withhold recess for specified reasons, i.e. punishment:
“In addition to the requirements in subsection (3), 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 and for students in grade 6 who are enrolled in a school that contains one or more elementary grades so that there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of free-play recess per day. Free-play recess may not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”
All Legg has to do is allow it to be heard. And he won’t. He can certainly vote against it if he’s not in favor. But he won’t even let it get to that point.
It’s not surprising he wouldn’t allow it though, considering that, according to the moms, he hasn’t bothered to return a single email or phone call they’ve have been making for weeks. Months. He’s also allegedly refused to speak to them for the five consecutive weeks they’ve travelled to Tallahassee to push for the bill. We’re talking upwards of four hours of driving each way, by the way. These are moms: spending their own money and taking their own time to make a difference for all kids in the state — and according to them, Legg can’t even be bothered to respond to their efforts. They got the news their bill wouldn’t be heard the same way everyone else did: through the media. Legg couldn’t even take the time to send a message that the efforts they made would have to wait.
Maybe he’s forgetting that he works for them. That the citizens of his state pay his salary. “If recess is in really high demand, he said, he’s unlikely to be back in 2017, and lawmakers can reconsider the idea then” reports the Tampa Bay Times.
There are very few states that mandate recess. If you are having issues with your school, let the experience Narvaez had be a lesson: vocal parents can make a change. Even if senators like Legg brush you off like your experiences don’t matter. Senators are elected. You’re essentially their boss. And they can be “fired” come election time.
“This is not a time issue. It’s not a funding issue. It’s a priority issue,” says Narvaez. “Recess is crucial to the development of children. All kids deserve to have recess.”
Let the kids play.