The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP grants), part of the No Child Left Behind Act, will award nearly $69 million in grants to various school districts, YMCAs and other community-based organizations across the nation. The program provides grants to initiate, expand or improve physical education programs, including after-school programs, for students in grades K-12.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige announced the 237 grants during a visit to North Ride Elementary School in Raleigh, N.C. where he presented a grant check to the Wake County Public School System for its research-based program to encourage students’ lifelong physical fitness and good nutrition. The system is slated to receive more than $1.3 million over three years.

“We commit a great disservice against our children when we ignore their physical well being and growth,” Secretary Paige said in the announcement. “Our children need to exercise, now!”

Other Cabinet members and senior members of the Bush administration also announced grants. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson spoke to 4th and 5th graders in Philadelphia. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman visited an elementary school in Woodbury, MN. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona visited a grantee in Cleveland, OH. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Julie Gerberding visited a new program in DeKalb County, GA.