US state wants to tax TVs, video games to fight fat, fund education

Agence France-Presse | January 25, 2008

A Democratic lawmaker in New Mexico wants to tax televisions and video games to raise funds to fight childhood obesity and improve education in the state, officials said Friday. 
"I have asked our legislative council service to prepare the "Leave No Child Inside" bill and am hopeful that it will be ready for me to introduce on Monday," educator-turned-lawmaker Gail Chasey told AFP.

"Leave No Child Inside" -- a play on the federal education initiative "No Child Left Behind" -- is backed by grassroots environmental group, the Sierra Club.

"The bill proposes levying a one-percent excise tax on the purchase of TVs, video games and video game equipment and would create the 'Leave No Child Inside' fund to receive those revenues," Michael Casaus of the Sierra Club told AFP.

The author and sponsors of the bill, who include dozens of other organizations besides the Sierra Club, according to Casaus, expect to raise four million dollars (three million euros) a year through the tax.

The items that would be taxed have been carefully chosen because of their links to obesity and poor school performance, the Sierra Club says, citing medical studies.

Around one-quarter of New Mexico's children are obese or overweight, and just over half finish high school, said Casaus.

"The goals of the bill are to improve the academic performances of our kids, to promote a more healthy lifestyle and to provide our children with outdoor learning experiences, using our state parks and public lands as classrooms," he said.

According to a study cited by backers of the bill, hands-on, outdoor study leads to better grades among students, including in mathematics and science.

Another study has shown a 27-percent improvement in the science test scores of students who participate in outdoor education programs.

Earlier this week, a high school in the US state of Georgia launched another unique initiative to boost the math and science grades of students.

Creekside High School near Atlanta offered students money to attend remedial classes in the two subjects for 15 weeks and a monetary bonus for maintaining a "B" grade average afterwards.