It may be a little bit more challenging to Inspire the World to Fitness if President George W. Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2006 passes. In its current state, the budget reduces funding for physical education and recreation initiatives.

Bush’s proposal calls for a $19 million cut in the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Program—from $74 million in 2005 to $55 million in 2006. The PEP Program provides funds directly to schools for the purchase of sports and fitness equipment. The money is also used to train and hire physical education (PE) teachers. According to PE4Life, a not-for-profit organization that promotes PE programs for children, more than 230 PEP grants were awarded in fiscal year 2004. The program is so popular that the U.S. Department of Education accepted no new applications for 2005, owing to the high volume and need of candidates who had applied the previous year.

According to the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA), a group of organizations dedicated to promoting policies and programs that encourage Americans to be physically active, the budget also proposes the following cuts:

  • a $92.5 million cut in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s primary federal-funding source for developing local parks, fields and trails
  • a $12.5 million cut to the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant, which provides states with money to pay for any of the 265 national health objectives in the Healthy People 2010 initiative
  • a $550 million cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with $60 million saved by cutting the CDC’s chronic-disease prevention and health promotion plan—a step that would eliminate the “VERB™: It’s What You Do” campaign, which promotes exercise to reduce childhood obesity

Congress is currently analyzing and refining the budget. The president will submit a midsession review on July 15. The new fiscal year begins on October 1.

The NCPPA and SGMA International, a trade association for sport product manufacturers, retailers and marketers, are among the organizations calling for the president to reconsider the cuts. “It is almost inconceivable, during a time of intense public awareness of obesity and physical inactivity, for our government to turn away from . . . programs that promote healthy lifestyles through physical activity,” said SGMA president and chief executive officer Tom Cove.

“The PEP Program is a catalyst in revitalizing physical education in the United States,” Cove continued. “Because of PEP, we are seeing fundamental changes in the way our children are introduced to sports, fitness and health. We should double PEP funding rather than eliminate it, in light of the benefits society will see in the years to come.”

IDEA member Scott Liebler lives in Lakewood, Colorado. He has built his entire career around teaching low-income preschool children the benefits of exercise. Although Liebler is not a beneficiary of the PEP grant program, he has partially relied on other types of government funding to implement his program, Funsical Fitness with Silly-cise and Adventurobics. He encourages other fitness professionals to continue developing programs and to voice their opinions.

“The focus should always be on the little ones,” he says. “If you can’t get help from the government, look for it elsewhere. Go to the library for tons of information on foundations and benefactors. Form a nonprofit, or team up with another nonprofit and let it be your fiscal agent. We live in a free country where we can tell our government what we think. So go for it.”