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Coalition releases poll: Portlanders support PE in schools

    A coalition of health, education and business leaders, Save Portland PE, today released the results of a poll conducted over the last weekend by Davis, Hibbitts, & Midghall, Inc., which shows that 86 percent of Portlanders overwhelmingly oppose eliminating PE in elementary and middle Portland Public Schools as part of the district’s budget cutting. The Oregon Sports Authority Foundation on behalf of the Coalition commissioned the poll.

    Last week, Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith unveiled a budget reduction option that would eliminate physical education in all elementary and middle schools as part of the package to close a $19 million gap in state school funding.

    “We know these are difficult times, but the decision to cut PE in elementary and secondary schools will have a lasting impact on our kids’ lives – now and into adulthood,” said Drew Mahalic, CEO of the Oregon Sports Authority Foundation, a member of the Save Portland PE Coalition. “We should all be working to improve the physical fitness of our young people. We believe there has got to be a better way and urge the school board to approach their budget options carefully.”

    The Davis, Hibbitts, & Mighhall, Inc. poll shows that 65 percent of Portlanders are aware of the $19 million deficit currently facing Portland Public Schools. By a strong majority, Portlanders supported using a portion of the district’s $30 million in reserves to address the budget shortfall rather than eliminating PE. The survey was conducted June 26-27, 2010 and has a margin of error of 5-6 percent.

    The Save PE Coalition includes Oregon Sports Authority Foundation, American Diabetes Association, Oregon Physical Education for All Kids (PEAK) Coalition, Community Health Partnership: Oregon’s Public Health Institute, NIKE, Inc., the Oregon Medical Association, Northwest Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, Portland Trail Blazers, Providence Health & Services, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, Upstream Public Health, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon: Interfaith Wellness Coalition PE teachers, parents, students, and health professionals.

    The Save Portland PE Coalition noted that one in four Portland children is obese or overweight and that physical inactivity is a leading cause of obesity. Ending physical education programs for elementary and middle school children will wind up costing more in the long run as research shows unhealthy and overweight kids will need more medical care due to their being overweight and at a higher risk for serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

    The rate of obesity in children has tripled in the last 20 years. If current trends continue in Oregon, 1 in 3 of today’s three-year-old children will develop diabetes at some point in his or her lifetime. For African American or Hispanic three-year-olds, the chance of developing diabetes is 1 in 2. Studies have shown that 40 percent of obese children and 70 percent of obese adolescents will become obese adults. Oregon taxpayers spend more than $781 million annually in health care related to obesity.

    The Centers for Disease Control has given PE its highest recommendation as an effective intervention to promote physical activity. The Coalition also said PE boosts educational achievement, makes kids healthier and is an issue for of basic access, fairness and social justice.

    Kids who are physically active are more likely to like to go to school, graduate from high school and have a higher GPA. PE has been proven to lead to improved grades and standardized test scores. Regular physical activity is also associated with increased life expectancy, increased academic performance and classroom behavior.

    The Save PE Coalition has begun running ads on Portland radio stations including KINK, KEX, KKCW and KNRK, to encourage Portlanders to contact Portland School Superintendent Carole Smith and School Board members. A full-page ad is scheduled to run in The Oregonian on Tuesday, June 29, raising awareness about the issue and asking people to attend the Portland School Board meeting on Tuesday, June 29, at 6:30 p.m. The School Board will meet at the Board Auditorium, Blanchard Education Service Center, 501 N. Dixon, Portland OR 97227. The Save Portland PE Coalition has also established social media tools at www.facebook.com/saveportlandpe and www.twitter.com/saveportlandpe.

    — June 28, 2010


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