CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Over the last year or so, West Virginia has taken several positive steps. Gov. Tomblin's decision last May to expand Medicaid has already brought health coverage to over 80,000 working people. In 2013, the Legislature took positive steps to deal with early childhood education, substance abuse, child nutrition and prison overcrowding.
I'm hopeful that some good things come out of this legislative session as well. Obviously, a bill that takes serious steps to protect West Virginia's water and people is at the top of the list, but other things are in play as well.
At this point, it looks like there's a decent chance minimum wage workers in West Virginia may get a well-deserved boost. And there seems to be hope for a bill creating a Future Fund for our state, which would turn non-renewable resources into a permanent source of wealth for our children and grandchildren.
One worthy bill that could improve -- and even save -- the lives of West Virginia's children could use a boost. That would be Senate Bill 455, also known as Move to Improve.
This bill is a companion piece to the Feed to Achieve Act that passed last year. But while Feed to Achieve addressed child well-being by promoting access to good nutrition for all West Virginia schoolchildren, Move to Improve addresses the other end of the equation by promoting physical activity.
It was sponsored by 12 senators and enjoys the support of the state Board of Education, both major teachers' organizations as well as a number of religious and child advocacy organizations.
Among other things, it would require that 30 minutes of physical activity be integrated into the school day for elementary and middle school students and specifies minimum amounts of physical education at all levels.
The intent isn't to add a new set of requirements onto the backs of already overworked teachers. Rather, it encourages teachers to build some movement into ordinary classroom activities, which is something many have been doing on their own for some time.
There are plenty of good reasons for doing this. According to Kaiser Permanente, when combined with improved nutrition, physical activity in schools "can increase focus and attention, decrease discipline problems, improve attendance, boost academic achievement, and improve the health of students."
Mingo County is a case in point. After the county made wellness a priority, Superintendent Randy Keathley told The Charleston Gazette that student attendance last year was 97 percent, while employee attendance was fourth highest in the state. Math and reading scores meanwhile have improved, while discipline issues and the dropout rate decreased.