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Military weighs in on reduced PE requirements

ILLINOIS - ILLINOIS -- Military leadership is among those beginning to worry about many people who want to serve being unable to. They say barriers, like physical education, is a big reason why and they want to change it.

Retired generals and health advocates are urging lawmakers to reject a bill cutting back on daily PE classes.

Part of the Senate's grand bargaining deal would allow school districts to reduce the number of PE classes to three days a week. Retired generals say, if it passes, it could be a threat to our national security.

"If that grand bargaining changes children's health, it's not much of a bargain at all."

Lawmakers are working together to help resolve the budget crisis which means tough cuts have to be made. However, health advocates and generals say reducing physical activity can be detrimental.

"71% of the youngsters in Illinois and 71% nationwide, age 17-to-24, are not qualified to serve in the military."

Major General Thomas says the statistic could go up if school districts scale back on the number of days students participate in PE.

"It's alarming because you have to have a viable force. You have to continue to recruit youngsters in the Navy and Army."

Senate leaders say letting school districts decide could save money and reduce the burden of unfunded mandates. Health officials disagree.

"Just because you eliminate physical education, you don't eliminate that class. Kids are still going to be in that class and still going to be in school for the same amount of time."

One parent says she knows how beneficial and education PE can be for children.

"To help children to be fit, to teach them to run correctly to avoid injury, throw a ball correctly to avoid injury, there are a lot of hard skills they are being taught in PE classes that are really critical."

Retired generals say it's unsettling those who want to serve their country sometimes can't and, cutting back on exercise will do more harm than good.

"To give these youngsters the opportunity with proper fitness, proper education, well educated, because this is a modern Army. It's very high paced and high movement."

Advocates say other ideas to help strengthen the next generation include increasing physical activity in communities, like walking or biking to school, and healthier school meals.

Another aspect of the bill would allow for sports exclusions; if a student is on a high school sport, they're exempt from taking PE.

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