Environmental Education in the Every Student Succeeds Act

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Background

Large numbers of environmental education providers, conservation organizations, businesses, sportsman’s groups, health care workers, school administrators and others have advocated for increased federal support for environmental education through amendments to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly No Child Left Behind). In 2007, Senator Jack Reed and Congressman John Sarbanes first introduced the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI) which would amend ESEA to include federal funds that state could use for implementation of state-wide environmental literacy plans. The legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support since that time and a modified version of the bill passed the House in 2008.

The years of advocacy and support for NCLI have yielded critical and unprecedented gains for environmental education. States across the country have begun or completed comprehensive environmental literacy plans that address opportunities to embed EE in K-12 schools as well as increase access to nature at the community level. Working closely with Senator Reed’s office, NAAEE, along with its affiliates and partners secured some key language for EE in the Senate version of a reauthorization bill for the ESEA which passed in July. A House version also passed in July, but it was remarkably different than the Senate version and contained no language referencing environmental education or environmental literacy.

NAAEE closely monitored negotiations between Senate and House leadership as they sought to draft compromise legislation late this fall. While the final proposal looked more like the House version than the Senate, the language supporting environmental education remains intact.

EE Language

The key language sits in Title IV of the Every Student Succeeds Act—21st Century Schools. Environmental education is called out as eligible for funding under a $1.6B “well-rounded education” grants program and environmental literacy programs are eligible for funding as part of the $1B 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. It’s worth noting that the prioritization of STEM activities including “hands-on learning” and “field-based or service learning” to enhance understanding of STEM subjects may provide additional opportunities for environmental science education programs.

The Every Student Succeeds Act passed the House on December 2, 2015 with a vote of 359-64. It is expected to pass the Senate next week.

Next Steps

While we are celebrating this advance for EE after many years of hard work, there is a great deal that will need to happen after the legislation is signed into law.

State and local education agencies and their nonformal partners will need guidance and technical assistance to effectively leverage this unprecedented opportunity. There are likely opportunities to encourage further prioritize systemic EE as states grant federal dollars to local school systems. NAAEE will continue to analyze the full bill and develop communications to inform affiliates, EE providers, and state and local education agencies how the law may benefit their environmental literacy work. NAAEE continues to work closely with Senator Reed and Congressman Sarbanes to assess additional opportunities to strengthen federal support for EE.

Read the NAAEE Press Release by Sarah Boder on PRWeb at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/12/prweb13120108.htm

 

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