The effort to require daily recess for Georgia elementary school students has come up short again – this time thanks to Gov. Brian Kemp’s veto pen.
Kemp vetoed House Bill 83 on Friday along with several other bills. In his veto message, the governor said the recess requirement “would impose unreasonable burdens on educational leaders without meaningful justification.’’
“While I support expanded recess opportunities for Georgia’s students, I am a firm believer in local control, especially in education,’’ Kemp stated. He said House Bill 83 would dramatically restrict this local control, stripping long-held authority from school boards.
Similar recess proposals had failed under the Gold Dome in recent years, but in the recently completed General Assembly session, the legislation passed easily. It encouraged schools to make recess 30 minutes.
The bill was backed by public health and children’s advocates, who noted that recess can help improve academic performance and reduce fidgety behavior and negative conduct in the classroom.
Polly McKinney of the advocacy group Voices for Georgia’s Children said Saturday that “while we are disappointed in the governor’s veto of the recess bill, we are nevertheless pleased that the General Assembly showed true commitment to a policy which can reduce child misbehavior in class, improve academic outcomes and combat childhood obesity — all at the same time.
“We hope that by raising the stature of recess in this bill that the conversation about these worthy goals will continue.”
Rep. Demetrius Douglas, a former Georgia Bulldog linebacker and currently a Henry County high school football coach, was lead sponsor of the bill. He pushed the recess idea for three years.
Douglas, a Stockbridge Democrat, pointed to the high child obesity rate in the state. One-third of Georgia children ages 10-17 were overweight or obese in 2017.
“It’s a health initiative first,’’ he said of the recess bill. “It’s about our future. These kids will be running our state.”