As recess bill moves through Florida House, 'recess moms' seek Senate action

Published Feb. 2, 2016

A legislative move to require 20 minutes of daily recess at Florida elementary schools won strong approval in its second state House stop on Tuesday.

It has yet to reach a single Senate committee, though. That has the self-proclaimed "recess moms" of Florida upset.

They're lobbying hard to get Sen. John Legg, who chairs the bill's first committee of reference, to give them a hearing. So far, Legg has set other priorities, but says the bill isn't dead yet.

Not good enough, says movement leader Angela Browning, an Orange County parent.

"Senator Legg, it's time to pick up the pace and agenda SB1002," she wrote in a guest commentary to the Gradebook. "Our districts have failed our children miserably — our legislators must not do the same."

Read on for her full views.

We are parents. We are voters. We are advocates. We are "recess moms." We read with interest Senator Legg's comments about SB1002, the bill we are advocating tirelessly for that would ensure our elementary children get a measly 20-minute break in the school day. It's the most we've heard from him on the issue since...well, ever.

Maybe if Senator Legg would personally respond to just one of our countless emails or phone calls, or sit down with us for five minutes after we've driven weekly to Tallahassee and stopped by his office, he would have a better handle on why we are where we are, how we got here, and how this bill solves the problem once and for all. There is so much we could help Senator Legg with. For starters - that lunch mandate he mentions? It doesn't exist. There are reading and PE mandates, but they account for only about 2 hours in the school day. The rest of the 6-7 hour day is not subject to any specific mandates, so long as minimum annual instructional requirements are met.

How do we know all this? Because for years, our districts have pointed the finger squarely at Senator Legg and his fellow legislators. Without exception, we recess moms have been told that the state controls the school day minute by minute, from bell to bell. Not true at all. It was only after we reached out to the DOE and did our own research that we found our districts were 100% at fault for this problem. There is plenty of time in the day for 20 minutes of recess, and even if we mandate it, there's hours upon hours of flexibility that still remains.

We think that additional instruction is great. It's important. We set high expectations for our children. We want them to be successful. The state's instructional requirements are reasonable and realistic. They leave quite a bit of time in the day - and we demand 20 minutes of that time for a break for our children. Why? Well, for several reasons. First, it's research-based - our kids need it. It's where they cultivate social skills, where they learn to be leaders, where they practice problem-solving skills, where they make friends and build relationships, where they can BE the children that they are. Also, studies show the recess period facilitates academic success by increasing comprehension, focus and retention, reducing discipline issues, and improving tests scores. And one more reason why a break in the day is appropriate: because our children are human beings.

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We have brought this issue to light in our districts, worked day and night to find ways to make it happen, begged and pleaded for help - but our children still don't have recess. Let's be frank here - recess hasn't disappeared on accident. It's not on the tests that our districts have worked themselves up into a frenzy over. These same districts are lobbying against recess in Tallahassee as we speak. Lobbying against what is right for our kids. Lobbying against providing an unstructured break for 5-11 year olds. We find that deplorable. Our children deserve better. Sure, we'd love for recess to be handled locally, but when it isn't being handled locally, to paraphrase the words of Representative Janet Adkins - it is incumbent upon our legislators to act.

Senator Legg says he is worried that the addition of recess could have unforeseen consequences for school boards, principals, and administrators. Parents are more worried about the known consequences that are occurring right now, and will continue to occur, for their children without recess. We hope Senator Legg votes "yes" on this bill, but if he wants to vote "no," then he can do so in committee. Let the senators who represent the people of Florida decide for themselves.

This bill is a GOOD bill, and it is overwhelmingly supported by parents across the State of Florida. We deserve a chance to be heard, right now. Not in two weeks when Senator Legg knows full well that it will too late for us to move the bill forward before session ends. We have been at this for two years. Mothers before us led a similar movement a decade ago. It's too late for those kids. We will not let it be too late for ours.

Senator Legg, it's time to pick up the pace and agenda SB1002. Our districts have failed our children miserably - our legislators must not do the same.