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Retired Generals Oppose Grand Bargain's Lower Phys Ed Standards

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A group of retired military generals is the latest to come out against an element of the Illinois Senate's "grand bargain" legislation. Their focus is a measure that would cut the state’s mandate of daily physical education to just three times a week.

The generals said the proposal would be a threat to national security, as many young Americans are too overweight to enter basic training.


Retired Brigadier General Mark Rabin of the Air National Guard said nearly a quarter of Americans between 17 and 24 years old are not fit enough to join the military. The most common problem, he says, is being overweight.


“The Army, the Air Force the Navy, the Marines, can’t take somebody who is not physically fit, and in the eight or 10 or 12 weeks of basic training bring them up to where they need to be,” he said.


Retired Army Major General and former Illinois Congressman Bill Enyart also spoke out against the Senate's proposal. He said that while he applauds bipartisan efforts to end the state’s budget standoff, "That’s not a good excuse to roll back physical fitness for kids, to roll back our national readiness.”


Data from the Illinois State Board of Education show many schools struggle to meet the 5-day requirement.


In the past, Gov. Bruce Rauner has said the P.E. requirements and other mandates are not realistic for schools that struggle to meet academic standards.


The measure is part of a greater effort in the grand bargain to relax some of those mandates and allow the privatization of driver’s education, foodservice, and janitorial work.

Tom reports on statehouse issues for NPR Illinois. He's currently a Public Affairs Reporting graduate program student at the University of Illinois Springfield. He graduated from Macalester College. Tom is from New York City where he also did stand-up and improv and wrote for the Awl and WNYC public radio.
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