TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) issued the following statement on her bill, S1594, requiring a public school district to provide a daily recess period for students in kindergarten through fifth grade:
“Governor Christie’s characterization of my bill as “stupid” was way off mark. A bill that promotes better learning, improved behavior, and good health by providing 20 minutes of daily recess to students is smart policy, especially when schools are restricting and eliminating that type of daily activity. Recess is as equally important for children’s learning as subject lessons. Evidence supports the emotional, social, physical, and learning benefits of recess. I have heard from many parents and educators who agree that students need that short break during their day.
“This bill was not passed in a hasty or scrambled way, another excuse claimed by the governor for vetoing this bill and others. In fact, his office provided language changes that I included in the bill before its passage. I am quite certain that he was well-informed and understood that requiring recess to be provided outdoors, if feasible, is far different from requiring children to play outdoors in the cold and in inclement weather, as he stated on Fox News. However, Governor Christie has a habit of not only being misleading, but also bombastic, so it is no surprise that he would try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes.
“The governor first criticized First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative to provide healthier school lunches and then he refuses to provide children with the opportunity to have daily recess. Interestingly, he seems to have changed his tune from a few years ago when he said he supported First Lady Michelle Obama’s goal of getting children to “to eat well and exercise and to be healthy.” The governor continues to add to a growing list of flip-flops, as he panders to the GOP base. I can think of far worse initiatives than those that promote good nutrition and increased activity among our youth to help them to develop healthy habits into adulthood. By refusing to intervene now, we are failing in our duty to combat the childhood obesity epidemic and costing our taxpayers billions in healthcare costs in the long run.
“Children that reside in our urban school districts get less recess time than their suburban counterparts. They also have fewer opportunities to play outside after school and on weekends due to gun violence in their neighborhoods and limited places and spaces where they can safely play. Additionally, school breakfast and lunch are often the only meals that poor children eat, especially since Governor Christie is making certain that fewer people benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Governor Christie may not care what these children are eating, or that they are eating at all, but someone needs to. Growing healthy children requires healthy food, healthy bodies, and healthy minds, which is what school lunches and recess are all about.”