State School Superintendent Susan Castillo has good cause to be leery of a proposal to have elementary school students spend more time in physical education classes. But caution aside, this proposal by Sen. President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, has merit and shouldn't be so easily dismissed.

From the pure perspective of dollars and cents, Castillo is responsible for managing a statewide school budget that has seen dramatic reductions in recent bienniums and sent districts into tailspins of teacher layoffs, school closures and fewer classes.

It should be cause for alarm to hear the Legislature - which has done nothing to solve this problem of stable funding - propose the spending of scarce resources on more PE instruction at the elementary level.

This idea would certainly be more welcome were it part of a state spending package that put education as its No. 1 priority by fully funding the schools - including physical education.

But that argument aside, it's equally difficult to argue against the value of getting children up and moving.

Childhood obesity is at record levels, which doesn't bode well for the health of these children as they grow into adults. The American Obesity Association reports that 15.3 percent of children (ages 6 to 11) are obese. The obesity among American youth has doubled since the 1970s and early '80s.

Part of that trend in Oregon can be traced to schools that have no time requirements for physical education.

There also have been connections made between healthy bodies and student performance. Ignoring one certainly weakens the other.

And finally, physical education is just as much a part of a well-rounded education as math, science, art, writing and reading. Short-changing children on any of these subjects is a mistake.

Here is an example of well-intended legislation, as long as it doesn't eat away at already inadequate funding. But if this mandate can be made while protecting other class offerings, then this law should be a slam dunk.

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