AUSTIN, TX – The Texas Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would require all school districts in the state to have students in kindergarten through eighth grade participate in “moderate or vigorous” daily physical activity each day for at least 30 minutes as part of the district’s physical education curriculum.

If daily sessions are impractical because of scheduling conflicts, then the physical activity should be at least 135 minutes during each school week, according to Senate Bill 530.

The measure by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, was approved by a vote of 29-1 and now goes to the House, where the chairman of the House Public Education Committee is sponsoring a nearly identical bill, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Nelson, the newspaper reported, said the bill was prompted by reports indicating that more than a third of Texas children are overweight, even though current Texas law requires daily “organized physical activity” for schoolchildren up to sixth grade. Nelson also referred to recent studies showing that regular aerobic activity causes the brain to grow new nerve cells.

Under a 2001 Texas law, elementary schools are supposed to provide 30 minutes of organized physical activity each day, according to the newspaper’s report. Critics, however, say that schools sidestep the requirement by providing a half hour of recess for students.

There is no state requirement for physical education in middle school, and local officials have resisted the idea because of class schedules that are full for many students, the newspaper reported. High school students in Texas must have 1 ½ years of P.E. classes to graduate. According to statistics from the Texas Education Agency reported in the newspaper, only about two-thirds of the state’s 4.4 million public school students were enrolled in P.E. classes.

Critics of the bill say that an expansion of P.E. will reduce the number of elective classes for middle school students and force them to drop music. According to the newspaper, Lauren Gould, an assistant band director at Renner Middle School in Plano, TX, told hundreds of Plano parents in an e-mail that the proposal “would virtually destroy music programs throughout the state.”