A bill passed by the Illinois Senate earlier this month will make recess mandatory in schools statewide if Gov. Pat Quinn and the House follow suit and sign off on the plan.
Senate Bill 636, introduced by state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Chicago), calls for at least 20 minutes of recess daily for children in kindergarden through fifth grade--outside, if weather permits. The bill includes a provision that would allow school boards to extend the requirement for students in grades 6 through 8, and also forbids schools from withholding recess as a disciplinary action.
The state Senate approved the bill on May 10 in a 32-20 vote, advancing it to the House for consideration.
“We can’t lose sight of the fact that kids need to be kids,” Lightford, whose district incorporates part of the Austin neighborhood, told Austin Talks. “Our children deserve a chance to play and relax during the school day. Learning to make friends and use your imagination is every bit as important as learning multiplication and grammar.”
The Raise Your Hand Coalition, an Illinois public education advocacy group, has expressed support for the bill, and for mandatory recess, which they say is particularly important for students at urban schools.
"Recess 'recharges the battery' so children return to the classroom ready to learn," the coalition advises parents on their website. "For most children, this is the only time they have to learn social skills, conflict resolution skills, and explore what comes with unstructured time. Recess is an important part of a child’s educational day."
The push for recess time accompanies pressure from Chicago Public Schools, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the city to lengthen school days across Chicago -- and pack their classroom hours with more content.
CPS's longer school day plan would require recess at schools city-wide, which schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard emphasized as a necessary addition.
"Recess is a key part of the full day and studies show that having time for recess not only promotes lifelong habits of healthy living, but also increases the likelihood of a student's success in the classroom," Brizard said in a statement.
Sen. Lightford also introduced SB 3259, which would establish a commission to study graduation rates and develop dropout prevention methods. Both bills are awaiting further action from the state House.