Boosting Environmental Education Across the Country
Since the moment I was first elected to Congress, I’ve been focused on advancing legislation that gets kids outdoors and inspires them to become the next generation of environmental stewards. This commitment to environmental education stems from my deep passion for the Chesapeake Bay – a passion shared by many Marylanders and one that was instilled in me after spending much of my childhood exploring the outdoors in Baltimore and on the Eastern Shore.
That’s why I’m proud to share the exciting news that in December, Congress passed a new K-12 education bill – one that’s a tremendous victory for environmental education advocates. The legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), included a provision that will allow educators to access federal grants that can help create and expand opportunities for students to get outdoors and learn about the environment firsthand.
This provision was originally part of the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI), a bill that I first authored in 2007 and reintroduced earlier this year. NCLI aimed to provide federal grant funding for teachers who would design and implement environmental education programs inside – and just as importantly – outside of the classroom. By encouraging new environmental curricula, the bill also strove to cultivate partnerships between school districts, colleges, environmental nonprofits, parks and other community-based organizations.
In addition to improving environmental education, the new K-12 education bill contains a number of reforms that will help provide American students with a high-quality, twenty-first century education, including:
- Helping states improve low-performing schools and enhance teacher quality;
- Setting higher standards and improving learning outcomes for all students;
- Dedicating more funding to bolster STEM education, student health and literacy initiatives and afterschool programs;
- Identifying and acting on ways to close the achievement gap;
- Strengthening access to, and the quality of, early childhood education programs;
- Maintaining important information about student performance; and
- Providing greater funding flexibility to better support students and school.
I was proud to work with my colleagues – from both sides of the aisle – to get this important environmental education provision included in the new education bill. And I look forward to hearing about the innovative and exciting environmental programs that teachers and schools create for their students.
Congressman John P. Sarbanes
Maryland’s Third Congressional District