President Obama has cut the three biggest federal environmental education funding programs to almost zero in his FY13 budget request to Congress. NOAA's competitive environmental literacy grants program, which he budgeted at $5 million and Congress later funded at $8 million last year, has been eliminated completely in his FY13 budget this year. EPA's Office of Environmental Education, which he proposed to fund at $9.7 last year and Congress funded at that amount, was also eliminated. Finally, NOAA's Bay-Watershead Training (B-WET) program has provided about $7 million for the past two years, and the President's FY13 budget includes nothing for this program. So in total, EE funding has gone from $26 million last year to essentially zero in the President's budget this year.
To pour more salt on our wounds, Commerce, NOAA, and EPA all are slated to receive overall budget increases over their FY12 enacted budgets.
As the only positive news for environmental education in his budget, the President again proposed to include environmental literacy (along with at least 8 other subjects and possibly more) in a new $90 million "Effective Teaching and Learning For a Well Rounded Education" grant program at the Department of Education that combines existing grant programs for civics, arts, economics, history, and others. However, since he made a similar proposal in last year's budget (but with $240 million of funding rather than $90 million) and Congress did not support it, we are hard pressed to feel optimistic that this might somehow offset even some of the impacts of the proposed cuts.
It will be up to Congress to restore these critical funds, and up to us, the stakeholder community, to convince them of the importance of doing so - in an election year where cutting the budget is at the top of almost everyone's priority list. Stay tuned for things you can do to help with this challenge.