Why Do We Need to Advocate for EE?
Not everyone understands the benefits of environmental education or understands the challenges we face in doing environmental education. By sharing our stories and sharing the benefits, community leaders, elected officials and decision-makers then join us in fighting for environmental education and making sure every child has outside learning time and sees outdoor learning and environmental education as lifelong pursuit. We can't do this alone. We need community leaders, elected officials, and decision-makers. We need you. We are all essential in advancing environmental education. If we don't advocate for our profession, who will?
How Do We Advocate for EE?
We reach out to Oregon's state legislators and our U.S. Congressional delegation by providing them with information. This helps our senators and representatives make well-informed decisions about legislation that impacts environmental education. We also share the importance of EE to local community and business leaders. We feel we need a diverse community that values EE and outdoor learning so join us in expanding our EE support by reaching out to your community leaders.
How Are We Advocating for EE?
No Child Left Inside
We were one of several organizations in 2013 that helped U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (MD-3) and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI) to introduce legislation that strengthen and expanded environmental education in America's classrooms and reconnected children with nature. These bills, each titled the No Child Left Inside Act (H.R. 3036 and S. 1981), addressed the need for environmental education to be included in the next re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (No Child Left Behind). Yet, these bills did not pass.
Once again in early 2015, U.S Representatives John Sarbanes (MD-3) and Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8) and U.S. Senator Jack Reed (RI) and Mark Kirck (IL) introduced legislation that will strengthen and expand environmental education. These bills, each titled the No Child Left Inside (H. R. 882 and S. 492) again address the need for environmental education to be included in the next re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The No Child Left Inside Acts would amended the No Child Left Behind law (NCLB) in the following ways:
- Provide federal funding to states to train teachers in environmental education and to operate model environmental education programs, which include outdoor learning.
- Provide funding to states that create environmental literacy plans to ensure that high school graduates are environmentally literate.
- Provide funding through an environmental education grant program to build state and national capacity.
More than 1,300 organizations nationwide representing more than 22 million people have join the No Child Left Inside Coalition. We are excited to continue to work on this legislation.
In December 2015, thanks in large part to the strong foundation of support for the No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act built by the EE community over many years, the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (now, the Every Student Succeeds Act) was passed with key language in support of environmental education included (read more below)! NAAEE, along with its state affiliates like EEAO, are working with the offices of Congressional EE champions Senator Jack Reed (RI) and Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-3) to reconsider the NCLI Act in light of the new education bill. Stay tuned for more on NCLI in the months ahead!
EE in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
On December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act, which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act—the comprehensive federal legislation governing preK-12 education in the United States. This bill includes language making environmental education and environmental literacy programs explicitly eligible for federal funds. The key language is found in two formula grant programs described in Title IV of the bill:
- Environmental education is called out as eligible for funding under a $1.6B “well-rounded education” grants program.
- Environmental literacy programs are eligible for funding as part of the $1B 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
- 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.
NAAEE will continue to develop communications to inform affiliates, EE providers, and state and local education agencies how laws may benefit their environmental literacy work. Read a fact sheet on ESSA, review the ESSA Timeline, and read a breakdown of the differences between ESSA and the No Child Left Behind Act.
What Can I Do to Help?
- Get the word out to friends, colleagues, and partners
- Contact your representative
- Learn more about these efforts
Get Involved in National Advocacy Efforts
No Oregon Child Left Inside (NOCLI)
We were one of several organizations in 2009 that helped in the passing House Bill 2544, "No Oregon Child Left Inside” into law. Key EEAO board members along with other community leaders were appointed by the governor to begin work on developing a K-12 environmental literacy plan for Oregon. In 2010, Oregon's Environmental Literacy Plan was adopted by Oregon legislation. Oregon was one of the first states to adopt an environmental literacy plan.
Get Involved in NOCLI
Today, Oregon State University Extension is working to implement Oregon's Environmental Literacy Program and many of our board members are actively involved in this process. Contact Jenna Mendenhall, OSU's OELP coordinator if interested in getting involved.
Oregon's ESSA State Plan
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and affords states greater flexibility. ESSA encourages states and schools to innovate, while at the same time maintaining a focus on accountability, an emphasis on state and local systems of improvement, and a more balanced assessment system.
ESSA establishes a framework for preparing Oregon’s students for life beyond K-12, whether that is attending college or pursuing a career. A prepared graduate should have the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college, technical, or trade schools, or enter directly into the workplace without having to take remedial or developmental courses. Additionally, graduates should be able to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world situations. The Federal law acts as leverage to improve the educational landscape in Oregon and reflects many of our state’s educational priorities including:
- Ensuring students graduate high school ready for college and the workplace
- Reducing gaps among student groups in achievement, opportunity, and graduation
- Supporting and improving struggling schools
- Expanding access to high-quality early learning opportunities for our youngest learners
- Keeping the focus on high-quality classroom instruction through professional development and meaningful feedback for educators
Community engagement and collaboration are key to the development of a strong plan.