Lawmakers debate bill protecting elementary school recess

Legislation would require 20 minutes of recess daily at elementary schools

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Legislation that would require 20 minutes of recess each day at Florida elementary schools cleared the state House Thursday night by a vote of 112-2. But even with such an overwhelming vote, the legislation is on life support.

The bill specifies that teachers can't keep kids from going to recess to finish their work or for disciplinary reasons. Sen. John Legg told News4Jax that the provision went too far.

As many as one in four Florida kids is overweight or obese, and the passing of the recess legislation would be a step toward fixing that problem.

"I believe that recess is definitely a right, not a privilege," said Rep. Bob Cortes.

A Facebook page for Florida recess moms has hundreds of followers. A half dozen of them came to the Capitol to support the recess bill because they say local school districts aren’t listening.

"If it’s not a policy or a mandate, there’s going to be people who don’t follow it," said Christie Bruner, a mother of three from Pinellas. "Just like everything else. That’s why we’re rallying with other counties to come to the state level."

The problem is Legg is single handily blocking the bill from being heard and said he wont change his mind.

"It is a too rigid of a solution," Legg said. "That is best left up to our local districts to resolve."

State Sen. Bill Montford is a member of the Senate Education Committee and supports the idea of recess.

"Recess is good," Montford said. "Kids need it. But in place of what? what do we remove from those seven hours we have with children."

When the state added an extra hour per day at 300 low performing schools, the price tag was $66 million.

Legg said in counties that don’t adopt recess, the bill could be back next year. If it is, Legg won’t be there to block it because he’s not running for reelection.

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