Raimondo says she’ll sign school recess mandate

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday she’ll sign a bill mandating at least 20 minutes of recess at elementary schools, joking that her kids would be mad if she rejected it.

“I am not going to veto that bill,” she said. “I don’t think my children would let me in the house if I vetoed that bill.”

The Democrat had earlier expressed concerns about the school recess legislation.

Special Report: Regulating Recess

She said she’s pleased by a “big and positive” amendment to the bill that gives teachers more leeway. Instead of prohibiting schools from taking away recess as a form of punishment, the amended bill asks teachers to make a good-faith effort not to withhold recess.

Her comments to reporters Wednesday came as hundreds of bills are heading to her desk after the General Assembly passed them last week before adjourning.

Parent groups pushed for mandating at least 20 consecutive minutes of unstructured play time following reports that some children weren’t getting any, either for bad behavior, inclement weather or because administrators needed to satisfy academic and scheduling pressures.

Suzanne Arena, a Cranston parent and co-founder of Rhode Island Advocacy for Children, said she’s “thrilled” about the passage of the school recess bill but not happy that teachers will still be able to take a child’s recess away. She said depriving kids of recess often hurts those who need it most, such as children with attention-deficit disorder.

Lawmakers in Rhode Island, Florida and New Jersey have all debated this year whether to require at least 20 minutes of uninterrupted recess at elementary schools in their states. The New Jersey Legislature passed a bill only to have it vetoed by Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who called it “stupid” and an example of “crazy government run amok.”

Raimondo said Wednesday she’s less sure if she’ll sign or veto another education bill that could curb the growth of charter schools.

The bill sponsored by Democratic lawmakers would give towns and cities more say over whether a new charter school can open, reflecting concerns that traditional school districts have about losing money for each student that enrolls in a local public charter.

Raimondo said she’s still studying the bill. She said she’s pleased “it’s pretty narrowly written” in a way that allows existing charters to grow, but reluctant to sign something that sends a message that the state is closing its doors on charter schools.

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