July 8, 2013

Letters to the editor: School activity mandate may breed couch potatoes

I was quite concerned when I read the recent article about the proposal to require 30 minutes of physical activity for children in elementary public schools (“Maine Senate approves bill requiring exercise in schools,” May 25). 

Students already have a certain amount of access to physical activity simply as part of recess, but in some cases, recess privileges can be revoked as a disciplinary action. The proposal’s sponsor, Sen. Rebecca Millett, thinks that in those cases, students should do something else to get the mandated level of activity. To me, this seems to be replacing apples with oranges. 

Personally, when I was a heavy kid, the only reason I ran around during recess was in play with friends. Had I been encouraged or forced to do some other activity instead of recess, I would have considered that as much or more of a punishment than the loss of recess itself. I suspect it would have made me even more resentful of exercise and probably defeat the intent of the bill. 

I also wonder where those 30 minutes will fit in. Will the students miss out on class, or have to come early or stay late to fit it in? Who will be responsible for monitoring that activity? Is it someone who would try to make it enjoyable, or someone so focused on fitness that they can’t understand why others might not like exercise? 

In the end, I think a better solution to the question of recess would be to simply ask teachers not to withdraw recess privileges and find some other means of disciplining the students. 

I would also strongly encourage the Senate to consider that these types of mandates to children may well backfire and lead to older children or adults who dislike exercise more than they might have otherwise. 

Erica Bartlett


Bipartisan effort needed to pass MaineCare expansion

The rigid divide between party lines was apparent recently as the Legislature upheld Gov. LePage’s veto of the joint bill to repay hospitals and accept federal dollars to expand MaineCare to nearly 70,000 people. 

When Medicaid expansion has a second vote, separately, we need our lawmakers to work across the aisle in Maine’s best interest. Utilizing these federal funds will improve health, dramatically reduce the number of uninsured Mainers and ensure a smarter use of Maine’s health care dollars, increasing federal investments to our state. 

More people will be able to access a comprehensive set of health benefits, such as mammograms, preventive health screenings and treatment for chronic conditions. Hardworking families will be able to get the care they need without falling into debt from huge medical bills. Maine will also save on costs of emergency care for uninsured people. 

As described in a recent editorial (“Our View: Legislators playing politics with Mainers’ health,” June 3), the Affordable Care Act is “the law of the land.” Despite any objections, it is a reality that no amount of digging our heels in the ground and rejecting federal funds can change. Prolonging the inevitable will only be a disadvantage. 

Regardless whether Maine decides to utilize these federal funds, Mainers will pay for Medicaid expansion within other states through their federal taxes. Doesn’t it make sense to at least reap some of the benefits if we are already paying for it? 

For the best interest of all Mainers, it is time for lawmakers to get on board. Accepting the federal funds to cover more people is a sensible approach to providing health coverage for the uninsured, a good deal for Maine and a smarter use of scarce health care dollars. 

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