For the fourth consecutive year, physical education received a boost on Capitol Hill. Congress finalized a 15% increase in funding for the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress (PEP) program. This funding, part of 2004 omnibus spending bill, was approved Thursday by the U.S. Senate. The House passed this measure in December and the President is expected to sign this bill into law within the next week. The bottom line is $69 million in 2004 will be provided in grants to local public and private schools, faith-based organizations, and community-based organizations. This $69 million should equate to over 300 grants awarded in the 2004-2005 school year, the most ever! PEP funding was $60 million in 2003, $50 million in 2002, and $5 million in 2001.

PEP grant funds are used to purchase fitness/sports equipment and train teachers in innovative physical education programs. In the three years since the program was initiated, the PEP program has provided funding to purchase treadmills, heart rate monitors, inline skates, climbing walls, ski equipment, fitness assessment technology, and traditional physical education equipment.

“We are very pleased with the increase in funding for the PEP program this year,” said SGMA International's Tom Cove, Vice-President for Government Affairs. “Securing funding for physical education is the top legislative priority for SGMA International. This year, Congress cut funding for many domestic programs because of the large amount of money spent on the restoration of Iraq. The fact that Congress increased funding for PEP by $10 million shows that we are getting our message across on Capitol Hill.”

“The collaboration of the sporting goods industry with PE4LIFE, NASPE, and other partners in the physical education community has been wonderful, and we look forward to working together in the future to promote PE and sports,” added Cove.

SGMA International is especially appreciative of Senators Ted Stevens (AK), Arlen Specter (PA), Tom Harkin (IA), and Representatives Judy Biggert (IL), Ralph Regula (OH), Kay Granger (TX), Roger Wicker (MS), John Peterson (PA), Don Sherwood (PA), Duke Cunningham (CA), Steny Hoyer (MD), Rosa DeLauro (CT), Nita Lowey (NY), and Jesse Jackson Jr. (IL) for their leadership and commitment in securing PEP funding.

Applications from local schools will be accepted by the U. S. Department of Education beginning in March. Grants will be awarded in September.

In addition, SGMA International also worked with PE4LIFE to secure two federal grants to support PE4LIFE programs in Naperville, Illinois and New Haven, Connecticut in the omnibus bill. These grants, totaling $450,000, will be used to develop research protocols and expand PE4LIFE programming in these school districts.