With the election upon us, it might be helpful for those in the environmental and sustainability education community to review our gains (and losses) in federal support over the past four years. We've experienced:
1. an unprecedented three new programs created by Congress: the University Sustainability Program (Department of Education - the first time in history that the Department has conducted sustainability education grant-making), the Climate Change Education Program (National Science Foundation) and Climate Change Education (National Space and Aeronautics Administration).
2. the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) B-WET program expanded from 3 regions to 7 regions.
3. a new program created by the Administration: the Department of Education's Green Ribbon Schools program, the first time in history that the Department has engaged in environmental education-related activity.
4. increased federal environmental education (EE) grant-making: in FY07, EE funding was $18.5m, rising steadily to a peak $58m in FY10 before declining to $40m in FY12. The total increases over the FY07 base are $130m.
5. three summits held by the Administration: NOAA Conference on Ocean Literacy, Department of Education Summit on Sustainability Education, and the White House Summit on Environmental Education
6. NOAA provided with stronger education authority in the America COMPETES Act
7. nearly $500 million in green job training funds in the stimulus bill
8. the Department of Education infuse key sustainability concepts into their National Career Clusters Framework, used by most if not all states and local schools districts as the backbone in vocational and career training programs.
Two new bills were also passed by the House: the Ocean, Coastal and Watershed Education Act and the No Child Left Inside Act; but the Senate failed to act upon both which can only be considered a disappointment. Nor did Congress choose to reauthorize the National Environmental Education Act.
In sum, we can say without doubt that the last four years have been unprecedented in the history of environmental and sustainability education. While there is much more to be done, we've achieved more gains than all the prior four decades combined, and those of you who worked hard on some or all of the above have just reason to be proud.