November 29, 2007 EE Legislation Update

Higher Education Sustainability Act (HESA) – GREAT NEWS!

On November 9, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller unveiled the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 (HR 4137) that reauthorizes the Higher Education Act. At the request of many of the 19 co-sponsors of HESA, Chairman Miller included HESA in HR 4137. This was a major accomplishment by all the HESA supporters.

On November 14, the Committee marked up HR 4137 and unanimously voted to send it to the full House, another promising step forward. We expect the full House to vote on HR 4137 in December. If it passes, then the next step is to insure that it stays in the final bill that reconciles differences with the Senate version of HR 3147 (S. 1642). This conference process will likely take place in January. If we can keep HESA in the new Higher Education Act, we will have avoided the more difficult route of trying to get HESA passed as a separate bill.

We are also thrilled to report that Senator Murray plans to introduce a Senate version of HESA within the next week or so to help build support in the Senate for keeping HESA in the final Higher Education bill. As a highly respected senior Senate leader and a strong education and environment supporter, Senator Murray is the perfect champion for HESA.

Our sincere thanks to those of you who helped enlist the impressive list of HESA endorsers and House co-sponsors. We are getting close to winning passage of this important bill. But we can’t let up yet. Our efforts are now focused on enlisting additional Senate co-sponsors, especially from the following Members of the HELP Committee:

  • Edward M. Kennedy (MA), Chairman
  • Christopher Dodd (CT)
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA)
  • Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
  • Jack Reed (D-RI)
  • Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
  • Hillary Clinton (D-NY)
  • Barack Obama (D-IL)
  • Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Michael Enzi. Ranking (R-WY)
  • Judd Gregg (R-NH)
  • Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
  • Lisa Murkowski (R-AR)
  • Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT)
  • Wayne Allard (R-CO)

It is critical that these Members hear from schools in their states about the importance of HESA. We need your help in getting schools in these states to contact their Senators. For more detailed information on how to do this, click here.

And of course, if your school or association has yet to join the impressive list of prominent HESA endorsers, please do so ASAP.

No Child Left Inside (NCLI) – Mostly good news

Many believe that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is now likely to be pushed back to the 2008 legislative session, putting it into an election year. The good news is that the No Child Left Inside Act now has 34 House cosponsors and 7 Senate cosponsors. In addition, Chairman Miller released the House Committee on Education and Labor’s NCLB reauthorization draft bill earlier this fall. It included some of our key provisions of NCLI (e.g., the EE Capacity building and teacher training grant programs) but not others (e.g, development of state environmental literacy plans, a national plan, voluntary national standards, a national model curriculum, include EE in the subjects to be assessed under the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and offer priority funding status for environmental magnet schools).

Efforts remain underway to get a few of these missing elements included in the final bill to come out of the House Education and Labor Committee. In the meantime, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has yet to release its version of No Child Left Behind. The upside of these delays is that we have more time to build support. Click here to find out more about how you can help.

FY08 NOAA and EPA Appropriations – Mixed News

Conferees are still continuing work on the final versions of both the FY08 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill and the FY08 Interior and Environment bill, which fund NOAA and EPA respectively. Prior to this, the House and the Senate each voted to fund NOAA and EPA environmental education programs at approximately the levels we requested, so the final bills under normal circumstances should reflect these levels of funding.

However, the President has indicated he would veto these bills if they did not reduce their overall spending level. All federal programs are now operating under a Continuing Resolution until December 14. When Congress returns from recess on Monday, most expect that they will either put together a giant omnibus bill to fund most federal programs for FY08 (which could include a funding increase for specific programs), or pass yet another CR, which would establish level funding for next year. While level funding would be better than the zero funding proposed by the President’s FY08 budget for environmental education, it would be significantly less than what both chambers of Congress have approved to date.

In sum, your efforts are making unprecedented progress – I think it safe to say that never in our nation’s history has there been so much discussion and consideration of environmental education in Congress. Our challenge now is to keep the pressure on over the next few months!

Thank you as always for your critical help - it is indeed making a difference.

Jim Elder