Trying to level the playing field

Becky Hamik wants to put physical education and health on a level playing field with other school subjects.

Hamik, who has taught physical education at Alcott Elementary the past 30 years, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., with a group of about 120 other educators from across the country seeking Congressional sponsors for the PHYSCIAL Act, a bill that would designate physical education and health as core academic subjects under the federal education law known as Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

“Basically what happens is once a subject becomes a core subject, a school district has the right to use federal funds to buy equipment, pay for staff development, whatever they want,” Hamik said. “If that subject is not a core subject, then they don’t have the right to use federal funds toward that program.”

The PHYSICAL Act stands for Promoting Health for Youth Skills in Classrooms and Life.

Hamik serves as president of the Nebraska Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, a professional organization for physical education and health teachers. The group is a state chapter of a national organization known as SHAPE America, or Society of Health and Physical Educators.

This is the second year in a row Hamik has traveled to the nation’s capitol with other members of SHAPE America to lobby for the PHYSICAL Act.

“Without us being a core subject, it’s easy to cut PE,” Hamik said. “It hasn’t really happened a lot in Nebraska, but in other states that is happening. They can come back and say, ‘Well, it’s not a core subject, so it’s not a big deal if we cut this.’ But then we start talking out the other side of our mouth about how Americans aren’t active and how they’re not healthy or educated about health. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

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