PTA parents have been advocating for daily recess in Florida since 2002, but the movement picked up momentum in 2014 when two PTA moms from Orlando, Angela Browning and Amy Narvaez, with no money, political experience or connections, convinced House and Senate legislators to sponsor legislation requiring 20 minutes of daily recess.
Unfortunately, the legislation came to a screeching halt in 2016 when a Florida Senator refused to schedule the recess bill for committee approval, killing any chance of the bill successfully passing. But PTA parents’ grassroots advocacy efforts were about to change all that …
January – March 2016
Fresh off winning the National PTA’s Phoebe Apperson Hearst award, four Key Biscayne Community School PTA (KBCS PTA) members in Miami, Fla., saw an opportunity to leverage their award and status as a School of Excellence into picking up the recess baton.
A petition (in English and Spanish) to restore daily recess was sent to local recess supporters. The petition went viral and had over 5,000 signatures in a few days.
The Recess for Miami Students campaign launched with a dedicated email address, Facebook page, and Twitter account. A logo, flier and bumper sticker were created with a local printing company generously agreeing to subsidize a large portion of the printing costs.
The Miami Herald ran a front-page story on the Key Biscayne “recess moms.” Soon, news organizations, parents, PTA leaders and elected officials were clamoring for more information. In response, Recess for Miami Students created press packets with copies of scientific studies on the benefits of recess, the petition, news articles, logo stickers and flyers.
Dozens of parents, teachers and supporters attended a Miami-Dade public school board meeting to speak in support of daily recess policy. Unfortunately, the school
board decided to only establish a voluntary “brain break.” Undeterred, Recess for Miami Students continued to hold interviews in English, Spanish and Portuguese, distribute press packets and meet with elected officials.
The Florida PTA, along with the Miami and Orlando “Recess Moms,” met with Senator Anitere Flores (a mom of two boys) to ask her to sponsor the recess bill in the Senate for the upcoming session and she agreed. Florida House Representative Rene Plasencia (a former high school track coach) filed the bill again in the House, and by December of 2016 the recess bills were on the move again.
Advocacy efforts ramped up considerably in Miami-Dade and across Florida. The petition had nearly 10,000 signatures and supporters followed developments on social media. Recess moms addressed Miami-Dade legislators locally at a Public Hearing and in Tallahassee before a Senate Committee.
Senator Flores, true to her word, gave interviews in English and Spanish and spent a considerable amount of her time advocating for recess—which resulted in the
Senate bill passing unanimously.
Despite his best efforts, Representative Plasencia’s bill was significantly amended in a House Committee. After several anxious and stressful weeks, it appeared recess legislation would die once again.
Thankfully, Senator Flores attached the recess language to two education train bills. Shortly before the end of the legislative session, House Bill 7069 was amended to include recess! The bill passed and became law, requiring that all Florida elementary students receive 20 consecutive minutes of unstructured, free-play recess, effective July 2017.
Angie Gallo is the Florida PTA legislation chair. Kate Asturias is a Miami-Dade parent and member of the local Recess for Miami Students group.