The Iowa Legislature moved heaven and earth and blew off private property rights to shield adult workers from the health dangers of second hand smoke. But now our crusading lawmakers may dump the Healthy kids Act, which takes aim at childhood obesity.
First, the bill paves the way for new nutritional guidelines, not requirements, for school lunch programs and directs schools to offer healthier choices to students. The guidelines, which would be set by a special panel, likey would encourage the use of Iowa-grown foods.
The bill also directs schools to make sure students K-6 get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day and 120 minutes each week for middle and high school students. There would be exemptions for participation in sports or outside school activities such as dance or martial arts. Physical activity can be added into existing programs and doesn’t have to subtract from class time.
A third part of the bill pushes schools to offer CPR classes to all students, although it does not make completion a graduation requirement.
“It seems like a reasonable beginning to start practicing what we preach,” said Rep. Art Staed, D_Cedar Rapids, who is the bill’s House floor manager.
But Staed says the bill has “run into trouble” in the final days of the session after clearing the Senate 30-17 earlier this month. Critics, nearly all Republicans, say the state shouldn’t be telling schools what to do and that it’s parents’ job to teach their children healthy habits.
Opponents are threatening to bog the bill down by offering a pile of amendments. Leaders may be tempted to toss it overboard in their push to adjourn and go home. We can only stand so much health in one year, I guess.
Of course, this is the same House that voted by a bipartisan majority to grab local option taxing authority away from school districts to create a statewide tax trough. The House also just passed a prescriptive statewide school curriculum bill by a huge margin. So the idea that they’re truly concerned about “local control” anymore is a real hoot.
It is true parents have primary responsibility for their children’s health. But judging by the rising rates of youth obesity, parents could use an assist during the big fat chunk of each day that schools have control of our kids.Taking crap off the lunch menu or making time for a little extra exercise might help.
But evidently unhealthy kids are a less attractive political target than a bunch of smokers down at the corner tap. Too bad casinos don’t sell carrots and celery, or this would be a slam dunk. But Twinkies would still be allowed on the gaming floor, no doubt.