WASHINGTON, D.C. — Physical education got the nod on Capitol Hill as Congress finalized a 20 percent increase in funding for the Physical Education for Progress (PEP) program.

The bottom line for the increase in spending is that $60 million in 2003 will be provided in grants to local school districts and community organizations. The PEP funding was $50 million in 2002 and $5 million in 2001.

The PEP grant funds are used to purchase fitness and sports equipment and to train teachers in innovative physical education programs. In the two years since the program was initiated, the PEP program has provided treadmills, heart rate monitors, inline skates, climbing walls, ski equipment, fitness assessment technology, as well as a wide range of traditional sports equipment.

“Securing funding for the PEP program is the top legislative priority for SGMA International and P.E.4LIFE,” said SGMA International's Tom Cove, vice president for government affairs.

“This represents a great success and shows what the sporting goods industry can do when it works toward a unified goal. The fact that Congress increased PEP funding from $5 million to $50 million to $60 million shows that this is a critically important initiative for our country, as well as a great program for the sports industry.”

This effort was also supported by NASPE, thousands of P.E. instructors and advocates across the country, IHRSA, NCPPA, the American Heart Association, as well as many others.

“This is outstanding news,” said Anne Flannery, executive director of P.E.4LIFE.

“The increased investment into the PEP program confirms that Congress views physical education as a key part of any solution to the epidemic obesity crisis among our nation's children.”

Applications from local schools will be accepted by the U. S. Department of Education beginning this month. The PEP grants will be awarded in September.