New York City’s Universal Physical Education Initiative: A Postive Step toward Ensuring a Meaningful Education for All Students in NYC

PhysEd4All-Teal-300x275The Campaign for Educational Equity is a member of the Phys Ed 4 All  Coalition, a network comprising community-based organizations, advocates, parents, educators, health professionals, and school administrators who are committed to increasing access to quality physical education in New York City public schools.

The Phys Ed 4 All Coalition applauds Mayor Bill de Blasio, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña for the city’s announced Universal Physical Education (PE) commitment to provide all schools with designated spaces for effective phys. ed. by 2021.

New York City’s Universal PE Initiative is an important acknowledgment that the facilities of many NYC schools do not currently meet the requirements of the state law. All New York students are entitled to public schools that provide them with suitable and accessible facilities, including adequate specialized spaces for libraries, laboratories, auditoriums, gymnasiums, and playgrounds (see CFE v. State of New York, 2003).

As Mayor de Blasio stated, “Incorporating physical activity into the day isn’t just the healthy thing for our young people, it is the law and one that was ignored for far too long.” This recognition that access to physical education is an educational right signals an important shift by elected officials toward honoring the rights of all students to a sound basic education by providing the learning resources to which they are entitled.

Suitable facilities is just one of the important educational resources necessary to fulfill students’ rights in this area. As noted in the recently released New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) report, Leveling the Playing Field: Access to Physical Education in New York City’s Public School System, many New York City students also lack access to state-mandated hours of PE instruction. Students in kindergarten to third grade, Black children, and children with disabilities are reported as most affected.

More information on the physical-education opportunities mandated by New York State statutes, regulations, and judicial requirements can be found in our Know Your Educational Rights handout on that topic. Information on the full range of students’ educational rights under state law is detailed in our December 2012 report Essential Resources. (Note that we plan to release the second edition of Essential Resources by fall 2017 to reflect recent policy changes.)

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