July 25, 2008

Simmons Behind Kind’s Fitness Bill

By Marc Wehrs, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 25--One described himself as an "ex-fatty kid from Louisiana who lived on bearnaise sauce" and didn't exercise -- at all -- until after college.

The other didn't merely exercise, he was a star high school athlete and Harvard University quarterback. But Richard Simmons and U.S Rep. Ron Kind now have at least this much in common: They testified Thursday, along with 1987 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown, before the House Education and Labor Committee about their passion for the FIT Kids Act.

And after the exercise icon later changed out of his suit and into his trademark shorts and tank top to lead an exercise rally, Kind spoke in Simmons-style hyperbole.

"We have had an absolutely fabulous day," Kind intoned to kick off a conference call with Simmons and Wisconsin media Thursday afternoon.

The Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act would amend the federal No Child Left Behind program to "establish a uniform, national approach to ... physical education," Kind said.

Kind sponsored the legislation with Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., to address rampant obesity and Type 2 diabetes in children. The bill has more than 70 co-sponsors, Kind said.

Simmons said 60,000 four-page questionnaires submitted to his Web site by students, teachers, parents and school administrators convinced him that integrating movement into all phases of education is the key to helping kids avoid obesity and its complications. The goal is "to get every child in every school moving every day," he said.

Kind cited a Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau School District program that combines archery and math as the kind of innovative physical education curriculum FIT Kids would cultivate.

The La Crosse Democrat said the bill likely will be reintroduced as stand-alone legislation to avoid controversy over funding levels and other facets of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Kind said after the conference call that obesity costs the nation $180 billion a year in direct and indirect expenses. He called the effects of obesity on self-esteem "devastating."

He did not have an estimate on how much the research, training and reporting called for in the legislation would cost the federal government, state governments and local schools.


--Require state accountability systems to include schools' progress toward a national goal of 150 minutes a week of physical education in elementary school and 225 minutes in high school.

--Require annual state and local educational agency report cards to include specific information on health and physical education programs.

--Promote healthy, active lifestyles within grant programs under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

--Launch a National Academy of Sciences study on school programs for improving student health and participation in physical activities.

--Revise professional development programs to include training for physical and health education teachers.


U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., will hold a listening session at 3:30 p.m. Monday at Cartwright Center on the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus to discuss congressional proposals addressing the current economic slowdown.

Kind will be joined by Bill Brockmiller, a labor market analyst for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and a La Crosse County Board supervisor.

Anyone unable to attend the listening session may call Kind at 1-888-442-8040, write to him at 205 Fifth Ave. S., Suite 400, La Crosse, WI 54601 or e-mail him by going online to www.house.gov/kind.

Marc Wehrs can be reached at (608) 791-8218 or [email protected]


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