Compelling testimony from JROTC students helps to kill PE waiver bill

Unintended consequences may be the best way to describe the effect of a bill that sought to get more students involved in physical education classes and exercise. However, students enrolled in Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) say the measure would have essentially killed that program.

House Bill 2664 died Friday during the Legislature's policy committee cutoff, after the House Education Committee failed to garner enough votes to move the bill forward.

The measure was proposed to prevent students from waiving, substituting or exempting physical education classes in favor of other electives, except for disability or religious belief. However, Rep. Dave Hayes, R-Camano Island, who opposed the bill, said it would have forced students in high schools throughout the state to drop the JROTC program.
“I commend the intent of the bill to get sedentary kids involved in more exercise,” said Hayes, “but this legislation is misguided and aimed at the wrong demographic.”

During a hearing Tuesday, school officials and JROTC students from throughout the state, including Oak Harbor, testified against the measure.

“If a PE credit is required, it will prevent a student from being able to take a Junior ROTC course. One hundred cadets are required to have a JROTC program. With so many students being required to take a PE class instead, many JROTC programs would die, taking that opportunity away from everyone,” said Jared Hunt, a senior at Oak Harbor High School, who asked the committee to reject the bill.

Oak Harbor's Naval JROTC program is nationally recognized and is frequently an entry point for eventual military service. Hayes said it teaches young men and women discipline, leadership and the importance of being physically fit.

“JROTC students and student athletes typically get more instruction on healthy life skills and more physical activity than they would otherwise get in a PE class,” noted Hayes.

“After hearing the compelling testimony of the JROTC students and staff from Oak Harbor High School and other school districts, committee members appeared convinced this is just not the right way to address the issue,” said Hayes, who serves on the House Education Committee. “So they let the bill die.”

Photo caption: Oak Harbor High School senior and JROTC student Jared Hunt (foreground) testified Tuesday before the House Education Committee against House Bill 2664 — a measure he says would make JROTC programs “die.”

Oak Harbor High School senior and JROTC student Jared Hunt

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov