A Historic Summit Amid Historic Cuts

Earlier today, the White House hosted the first ever summit on environmental education. This historic event was literally decades in the making and signified the level to which the issues of environmental education and green schools have become the topic du jour in communities nationwide. The EPA deserves credit for making the event happen, as does the Department of Education and the White House Council on Environment Quality. And there’s good reason why: these 3 agencies also announced the joint creation of a (resurrected) new federal task force on environmental education. Though details are scare at this early stage, Earth Day Network lauds the continual efforts of this Administration to raise environmental education and green schools to new heights.

Yet for all the fanfare and historic gestures, the summit’s timing was more than ironic; it was unfortunate. To be exact, the Obama Administration recently proposed eliminating funding for environmental education at the EPA, NOAA and NSF – a total amount hovering around the $40 million range. This regrettable action did more than hang over the summit attendees (who included our Education Director, Sean S. Miller). It cast a shadow of doubt on the Administration’s priorities with respect to environmental education. In short, these proposed cuts are worse than the funding levels during the Bush Administration.

If we are truly going to “out-educate and out-innovate” our global competitors, as the President so eloquently states, then cutting environmental education is certainly not the preferred pathway to success. In fact, the elimination of such funding puts several critical programs – like the National Environmental Education Foundation – in serious jeopardy. Earth Day Network hopes that Congress, along with any future budget proposal from the current Administration, will show a little bit more foresight with respect to environmental education. To paraphrase Education Secretary Duncan, the most dynamic speaker today: we cannot continue to educate our nation’s youth for an economy and workforce that is increasingly a figment of the past. Instead, we need to better prepare today’s students with the knowledge and skills necessary to thrive in a rapidly changing and complex world. Environmental education is critical for doing just that, and we encourage you to contact Congress now so that these proposed cuts do not set precedent and become law.