EE Hill Report - April 23, 2007

By Jim Elder, Campaign for Environmental Literacy

It has been an active and promising couple of months for environmental education in Washington – except for the FY07 budgets:


FY07 and FY08 Appropriations

EPA
FY07 Budget – While EPA was essentially given level funding of $9 million by Congress for the Division of Environmental Education in FY07, rumors are that EPA management has recently decided to cut this to $5.6 million – and is taking $2 million from this amount to keep current EE staff in place and to cover overhead. In response to this limited and delayed funding, EPA has decided not to issue a solicitation for new environmental education grant proposals in FY07. Instead, EPA will select and fund a limited number of proposals from those received in response to the FY06 Solicitation but not funded in FY06. The EE community has written to EPA’s Administrator to protest this unfair cut and its disproportionate impact on the DEE programs themselves and thus on the environmental education field. We expect that several Senators will respond positively to our request to send a similar letter of concern.

FY08 Budget – Representatives Walsh and Udall and Senators Clinton, Warner, Lieberman and Cardin have sent letters to their respective Appropriations Subcommittees calling for full restoration of the $9 million to the FY08 budget. The EE community has sent in a letter to Appropriators as well, and a promising meeting with staff from the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee was held last week.

NOAA
FY07 Budget - As with EPA, NOAA was basically granted the same overall funding for FY07 as they received in FY06 ($6.3 million for education initiatives including the Environmental Literacy Grants Program) - but without detailed direction on how to spend these funds. The EE community petitioned the NOAA Administration to spend these funds as they did in FY06; and after giving our program the same modest cut applied to all NOAA programs, they allocated $5 million to the "education initiatives" program and have promised to direct about $3.5 million of this to the Environmental Literacy Grants program (vs. $4.0 that was granted in FY06). So in the end, EE came through in decent shape.

FY08 Budget – The EE community has sent in a letter to Appropriators asking for full restoration of the $6.3 million and consideration for increasing this to $10 million on this issue as well. A meeting with staff from the Senate Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee is currently being arranged to discuss this.


New Legislation

The Reauthorization of "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB)
A bill has been drafted to include environmental education in the reauthorized version of NCLB that would include environmental science in the required state science standards and assessment; create a $100 million grant program for teacher training; create a grant program to fund states to create EE plans, standards and assessments, and several other changes. Senator Jack Reed (RI) and Representative John Sarbanes (MD) have indicated they will introduce and champion some version of this proposal in early May.

Global Warming Education Act
Representative Mike Honda (D-CA) introduced the Global Warming Education Act (HR 1728) last week. In short, this bill would give funding to NSF for two programs: a national information campaign and a competitive grant program to fund informal education materials, K-12 curricula development and publish information. No specific funding level is authorized.

On May 2, Representative Honda also introduced a shortened Global Warming Education amendment to the National Science Foundation Authorization Act of 2007 (H.R. 1867). The House voted 257 (including 27 Republicans) to 165 to include the amendment and went on to pass the full bill. The amendment reads:

GLOBAL WARMING EDUCATION

(1) INFORMAL EDUCATION - As part of Informal Science Education activities, the Director shall support activities to create informal educational materials, exhibits, and multimedia presentations relevant to global warming, climate science, and greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

(2) K-12 INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS - As part of Discovery Research K-12 activities, the Director shall support the development of K-12 educational materials relevant to global warming, climate science, and greenhouse gas reduction strategies.

One could argue that, if the Senate agrees in Committee to accept this and the bill is signed into law by the President, this will be the first new piece of federal environmental education legislation in decades. And, while the amendment includes no direct spending and is a very modest program, it is a good first legislative step towards a full fledged federal global warming literacy effort.