Press Release

As Congress Threatens to Cut Phys. Ed Funding, Gillibrand & Higgins Announce New Push to Secure Student Fitness Programs for Schools Across the Country

Sep 15, 2015

Cheektowaga, NY – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Brian Higgins today announced a new push to secure student fitness programs for schools across the country, amid Congressional efforts to cut physical education funding. Standing at Union East Elementary School with Congressman Brian Higgins, Superintendent of Cheektowaga Central School District Dennis Kane, Union East Elementary School Principal Brian Bridges and Erie County Health Commissioner, Dr. Gale Burstein, Gillibrand outlined her initiative – the Fitness Integrated into Teaching Kids Act, known as the FIT Kids Act. The legislation would provide grant funding to school districts and community organizations to improve physical education programming, and boost opportunities for physical activity for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

In the United States, one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and in Western New York the rate is 34.4 percent. Physical activity can lower obesity risks and the diseases associated with it. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that school-age children complete at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. However, less than one-third of students across the country meet that standard. FIT Kids would allow school districts and community organizations to invest in quality physical education programs that provide regular physical activity and help students to develop the skills and behaviors for a healthy, active lifestyle.

“We have to make our children’s health a priority, and that means investing in physical education programs that will boost their fitness and help them thrive in class,” said Senator Gillibrand. “While some in Washington have put fitness funding on the chopping block, we’ll continue to fight to protect these programs so that our students learn good, healthy practices they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.”

“Establishing healthy habits like exercise during childhood is critical for health benefits into adulthood,” said Congressman Higgins. “The FIT Kids Act would provide much-needed grant opportunities to encourage physical activity through programs available to school children, an important piece of the puzzle to confronting the childhood obesity epidemic and improving public health in our country.”

“Physical Education is proven not only to improve children’s health, but to help them succeed in school,” said Erie County Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein. “I applaud Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Higgins’s efforts to secure funding for this important, evidence-based program.”

Under Senator Gillibrand’s FIT Kids Act, school districts and community based organizations would be able to apply for funding for education and activity programs. The FIT Kids Act was incorporated in the larger Elementary and Secondary Education Act that passed the Senate earlier this year with broad bipartisan support. However, the House did not include FIT Kids in its version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The House and Senate will now negotiate a final version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to resolve any differences. Gillibrand will urge the committee negotiating the final bill to include the FIT Kids Act so that the legislation the President signs into law includes this grant program. The House and Senate will now negotiate a final version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to resolve any differences. 

In Western New York, there are an estimated 290,000 school-aged children and an average of 34.4 percent or an estimated 96,000, are overweight or obese. However, in New York, just 26 percent of high school students regularly meet federal guidelines for 60 minutes of moderate to rigorous physical activity each day. 


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% Overweight or Obese School-Aged Children

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Gillibrand has incorporated student health measures into major legislation before Congress this year. As a part of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization, Gillibrand is fighting to protect fruit and vegetable serving standards to ensure school meals are nutritious. She has also proposed School Asthma Management Plan Act to ensure schools are equipped to respond to asthma attacks and are working to help prevent them from happening.