Georgia Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Daily Recess For Students

by Thea Glassman
Anek Sakdee/Getty

Gov. Kemp turned down a bill that would make daily recess a requirement

Recess has been proven to have so, so many important benefits for kids. It can help with their attention skills, make them less fidgety in class, enhance conflict/resolution abilities and – perhaps most importantly – gives them valuable time for physical activity. Despite all this, Gov. Brian Kemp vetoed a bill that would make daily recess mandatory for Georgia elementary school students. Can we get a collective “huh”?

The bill suggested that students in kindergarten through fifth grade get thirty minutes of exercise time per day and added that schools can’t withhold recess as a disciplinary measure. Kemp shot this idea down because he felt that it was overstepping the authorities of local school boards.

“I am a firm believer in local control, especially in education,” Kemp said in a statement, per The Augusta Chronicle. “This legislation would impose unreasonable burdens on educational leaders without meaningful justification.”

Many people would beg to differ that recess itself is actually a “meaningful justification.” Also, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find good educators who think it’s a burden to let kids have a half-hour playing outside as part of their otherwise rigorous school day. Polly McKinney, who works for the advocacy group Voices for Georgia’s Children, reinforced the importance of what the bill had to offer.

“While we are disappointed in the governor’s veto of the recess bill, we are nevertheless pleased that the General Assembly showed true commitment to a policy which can reduce child misbehavior in class, improve academic outcomes and combat childhood obesity — all at the same time,” she said in a statement. “We hope that by raising the stature of recess in this bill that the conversation about these worthy goals will continue.”

This sentiment was shared by lots and lots of others online.

Unfortunately, there’s been a country-wide decline in mandatory recess. In an effort to push academics, 20 percent of school districts cut down on recess between 2001 and 2006, according to Edutopia. By 2006, one third of elementary schools didn’t offer recess at all.

So, why are these stats both very important and very depressing? Kids can benefit so, so much from outdoor playtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics published an entire study titled “The Crucial Role of Recess in School” and broke down the importance of unstructured playtime.

“Children develop intellectual constructs and cognitive understanding through interactive, manipulative experiences,” the study noted. “…Recess promotes social and emotional learning and development for children by offering them a time to engage in peer interactions in which they practice and role play essential social skills.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics also explained that the simple act of being outdoors and playing will help in a whole variety of physical ways.

“There is a wealth of literature published on the need for and benefit of physical activity and fitness, not only for a child’s physical well-being but also for academic and social maturation,” they wrote. “Although not all children play vigorously at recess, it does provide the opportunity for children to be active in the mode of their choosing and to practice movement and motor skills.”

You hear that, Gov. Kemp? This one is really a no-brainer.