Originally published May 2, 2019 in Chalkbeat.

By Sandra Fish

P.E. aficionados will find something to like about the Public School Finance Act, after it picked up a couple of amendments.

The House on Wednesday evening added a small grant program for physical education and another to help reduce the dropout rate to Senate Bill 246.

Both grant programs are described in separate bills already approved by the House and waiting for Senate consideration. But with time running out on the 2019 session, lawmakers are looking for ways to ensure certain measures become law. The ninth-grade success program, for example, is a priority for Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. And the physical education grants are championed by state Rep. Jim Wilson, a Salida Republican and co-sponsor of the school finance bill.

“Those are two things that are definitely connected with learning, and we thought rather than let those good bills just die for lack of time, we could get those onto the finance act,” Wilson said.

The $7.4 billion school finance bill calls for average per pupil funding under the measure is $8,476, up about 4.3 percent from the current year. The measure also includes $100 million to pay down money owed to districts after recession-era budget cuts, $22 million to increase funding for special education students, and a $20 million special allocation for rural districts.

SB246 includes $3 million annually in grant funding available for schools to implement pilot programs focused on improving “Health and Wellness Through Quality Physical Education Instruction.”

The bill acknowledges physical education’s impact on major health concerns and also points out the academic benefits of fitness as well. “A 2007 study by the Institute of Medicine found that physical activity also has a positive impact on cognitive ability and brain development,” among other benefits and that “recent research has demonstrated that there is a positive relationship between frequency of physical education and academic achievement.”

The grants will be three-year grants renewable annually. Grants will be awarded for implementation during the 2020-21 school year, renewable through 2022-23.

“The General Assembly declares that it is important to the health and well-being of Colorado’s children and youth to ensure competent and comprehensive quality physical education in Colorado schools…based upon the model physical education policy and through subsequent evaluation of the pilot program’s impact on participating children and youth.”

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    Colorado school finance bill amended in effort to save two grant programs
    As legislative session closes, Colorado school finance bill amended to include key funding for new Physical Education initiative.
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