State lawmakers are game for a bill to require recess for Florida students, passing a bill Tuesday to mandate at least 20 minutes of recess each day in the Sunshine State.
The bill, SB 78, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, would mandate 20 minutes of free-play recess in all Florida public elementary schools.
State senators voted unanimously to approve the measure Tuesday afternoon.
“If we’re going to have recess, it’s going to be recess,” said Flores.
Only 11 of Florida’s 67 school districts currently have school-board approved recess policies. The bill would mandate the unstructured recess for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.
Supporters of the bill say recess is important because it gives students the opportunity to socialize and build real-world skills beyond the classroom.
Scientific studies have shown recess is healthy for children in school and helps improve memory and concentration skills.
The Centers for Disease Control, Shape America and other national organizations recommend giving elementary school students at least 20 minutes of recess each day on top of P.E. classes and advise against using recess to meet time requirements for physical education in schools.
Flores’ proposal has sailed through the Senate, receiving unanimous support in each subcommittee which has heard the measure.
Last year, the same bill did not fare as well in the Senate since Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, wouldn’t hear the bill in committee because he didn’t want the state to put another mandate on school districts.
Mandatory recess won’t be all smooth sailing through the Legislature, though.
That’s because the Florida House doesn’t want mandatory recess -- instead, the House passed a watered-down bill to blend recess and physical education classes as part of Florida’s 50 minute per week requirement for physical education.
That means more than 400,000 fourth and fifth-graders would be cut off from mandatory recess time, something the bill’s advocates say isn’t good for the health and wellbeing of Florida’s students.
“Recess moms” are undoubtedly bolstered by the bill’s passage, but still await what may happen with the legislation in the House, where it is unclear whether the chamber will take up the Senate version of the bill.
House bill sponsor Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, recognized his proposal had been changed significantly from its original form, but said the changes were needed in order for the legislation to pass through that chamber.
“There’s a lot [involved] in getting bills moving,” Plasencia said. “Nothing is ever simple in this process.”
Flores disagreed with the House’s proposal, saying recess should be a standalone activity rather than be blended into another class.
“Recess should not be in competition with other things,” Flores said. “[It] should be able to stand on its own. It should be able to give our students and teachers...a mental break at some point in the day.”