Health
8:05 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Austin School Kids Make Average Grade on Obesity Scale; Texas Lawmaker Wants to Shed Program

Austin Independent School District teachers may tell their students they’re special, but numbers never lie. And the numbers say that they’re (just a bit) above average.

Thankfully, that’s not a bad thing.

This interactive map from the office of Comptroller Susan Combs displays the body mass index rates of over 2 million students in public schools across Texas. The measurements are based on statistics from the Fitnessgram, a program which measures the fitness levels of Texas public school students from grades three to 12. And it's also the target of a bill in the state legislature that would end the program.

Austin ISD ranked just one point above the Texas average at 55 percent of students with a healthy body mass index (BMI), and just two points under the statewide average (approx. 46 percent) for children at risk for obesity.

Michele Rusnak supervises physical education for AISD. “When we’re testing over 50,000 and we improve a percent, I think that’s significant,” Rusnak said.

For comparison, here are some of the Austin area school district numbers:

  • AISD: 55 percent were healthy; 12 percent were at some risk for obesity; 32 percent were at high risk for obesity
  • Manor ISD: 48 percent were healthy; 14 percent were at some risk for obesity; 38 percent were at high risk for obesity
  • Eanes ISD: 81 percent were healthy; 10 percent were at some risk for obesity; 9 percent were at high risk for obesity
  • Lake Travis ISD: 71 percent were healthy; 11 percent were at some risk for obesity; and 18 percent were high risk for obesity
  • Round Rock ISD 66 percent were healthy; 12 percent were at some risk for obesity; 22 percent were at high risk for obesity
  • Pflugerville ISD: 56 percent were healthy; 13 percent were at some risk for obesity; 31 percent were at high risk for obesity

But a bill at the Texas Legislature would end the program.

Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, author of HB 1156, told the House Public Education Committee this week that the program tells Texans what they already know: Texas students are getting fatter.

“It’s answering a question that we already know the answer to,” Bonnen said. “There is a problem with childhood obesity.”

Bonnen said he had heard from some physical education administrators that the program doesn’t teach valuable lessons for some students. He says one administrator told him that “dragging a kid out of drama class to run a mile, when he hasn’t had a P.E. class in three years,” was a waste of class time and teacher pay.

The bill was left pending in committee.