In December of 2015, President Obama signed into law bi-partisan federal education legislation, the so-called Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The Giant Leap Forward:
Despite numerous failed attempts at environmental education standalone legislation, ESSA is considered an enormous success for the environmental education community. For the first time, environmental education is included language in federal legislation. Under this reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, environmental education is listed as part of a “well-rounded education” under Title IV, Part A.
The language included environmental education as an enrichment activity which would be eligible for under a new block grant program authorized at $1.65 billion. In addition to environmental education, this new block grant also included student health and safety such as bully prevention and mental health programs.
The Big Step Back:
On June 9th, the Senate Appropriations Committee finalized funding for the Department Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education—including programs under ESSA. The Title IV, Part A block grant, mentioned above, which was authorized at $1.65B, was funded at a mere $300 million.
This action is incredibly disappointing as the block grants under this legislation are meant to fund programming for environmental education as well as school counselors, music educators, school technology leaders and physical educators. Each of these groups have organized their statements on the Senate’s action. Click the links above to see their missives.
Earth Day Network is a strong supporter of environmental education and will happily stand with NSTA and other environmental and science education groups in hopes that an amendment will introduced to increase these funding levels.