Are multiplication tables more important than our children’s health? Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell seems to think so. He vetoed a bill yesterday that would have required all elementary and middle school students in Virginia to participate in 150 minutes of physical activity a week, in addition to recess.
McDonnell says the bill is an “unfunded mandate,” according to The Washington Post, citing concerns about the cost of implementation. Other opponents worry about placing the burden of solving our country’s childhood obesity crisis on our public schools.
While these concerns are understandable, they don’t justify a veto. Government funding is largely a matter of priority, and by passing the bill, McDonnell would have demonstrated to the people of Virginia that the state is serious about children’s health. The reality of implementation would have lent urgency to a problem that we as a country have let languish for far too long.
Plus, consider these sobering statistics: According to the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, on a national level, “the direct costs of childhood obesity include annual prescription drug, emergency room, and outpatient costs of $14.1 billion, plus inpatient costs of $237.6 million” (emphasis mine).
In Virginia, 24% of children are on Medicaid and one in three is overweight or obese. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Virginia has the 14th-highest obesity-related health care costs in the 50 states. Clearly, the childhood obesity epidemic is already costing the Virginia government a significant chunk of money–so why refuse to invest money in a long-term solution?
It’s important to remember that the bill is not the only solution.
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