The nation's first Green Ribbon awards are being announced as I write. 78 schools (including 8 charter and 12 private) from 30 states - incredibly impressive schools! You can watch the 20 minute announcement by EPA, CEQ and ED here (skip the first 4 minutes): www.ustream.tv/recorded/22071533. Most notably, half of the public school award winners s are "disadvantaged", debunking the myth that only wealthy schools can be green.
And we received two great endorsements recently. First President Obama issued a short Earth Day Proclamation yesterday (www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/04/20/presidential-proclamation-earth-day) which prominently mentions Green Ribbon (see excerpt below) - the first President since Nixon to say a word about environmental education!
Second, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presented a powerful endorsement of environmental education and green schools in his keynote speech at the Green Schools National Conference in Denver (www.ed.gov/news/speeches/greening-our-schools). I've excerpted the end of his speech below, which describes some of the early impact our Green Ribbon campaign has had. His 20 minute speech on green schools and environmental education is without question the strongest statement to ever come from a senior member of the federal government on this topic.
Last but not least, the White House and EPA held a Summit on Environmental Education last week. EPA promised to resurrect the Interagency Task Force on Environmental Education, initially created in 1990 by the National Environmental Education Act; and committed $5 million to environmental education in their 2013 budget. It was long on rhetoric and short on details as these events tend to be, but hopefully we can work with them to deliver on some of their promising language.
In short, thanks to your support, there is now a truly unprecedented amount of Administration activity on environmental education.
All that said, the Administration has also proposed zeroing out the only three environmental education grant-making programs (NOAA and EPA) in their 2013 budget after two years of supporting these programs in the President's budget - a disconnect with their stated commitment which we have been trying to point out to them. We now have a long and tough battle in Congress ahead again to get these programs funded.
"As we work to leave our children a safe, sustainable future, we must also equip them with the tools they need to take on tomorrow's environmental challenges. Supporting environmental literacy and a strong foundation in science, technology, engineering, and math for every student will help ensure our youth have the skills and knowledge to advance our clean energy economy. Last year, we launched the Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools recognition award to encourage more schools to pursue sustainability, foster health and wellness, and integrate environmental literacy into the curriculum. In the days ahead, we look forward to awarding the first Green Ribbons and recognizing the accomplishments of green schools across our country."
President Barack Obama, 2012 Earth Day Proclamation
"...The final message I hope you'll take with you from this conference is that you have helped pioneer a successful model for government partnerships that represents a marked departure from the traditional model—which often depends on big infusions of new resources and command-and-control regulation.
In a time of tight school budgets everywhere, you helped shape, inform, and develop our U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School program with little new money by encouraging innovation.
You made smarter use of existing resources. You pushed us hard and other government agencies to get out of our separate silos.
Your movement is helping not only to change the culture of schools in our communities for the better but also the culture in our Department. That's a big deal—and I want you to know how much that means to me personally.
The great reform ideas always come from the state and local level, not from me or anyone else in Washington. And the ED-Green Ribbon School program is a powerful illustration of innovation that started with you, and that we tried to listen to, learn from, and take to scale.
Just a few years ago, the National Academy of Sciences published a study on the learning attributes of green schools. It concluded that their impact on learning could not be determined without a clearer, accepted definition of green schools.
Since then, green schools have taken a leap forward, thanks in large part to your support and guidance for the Department's new Green Ribbon program. Today, we can agree on a meaningful, common definition of green schools. Collectively, we're seeking to reduce schools' environmental impact and improve their energy efficiency; improve health, in both everyday practices and surroundings; and advance environmental learning.
Remember, it was only a year ago when many of you here today sent us a letter requesting a new initiative from our Department. You were among some 75 signatories, ranging from the Alliance to Save Energy to the Zero Footprint Challenge, to associations for national school boards, principals, and teachers.
You asked for a coordinated program at the Department dealing with environment, health, and education—and we appreciated your passionate and thoughtful advocacy.
As we developed that new green schools program, the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools, we worked to include each of the areas you emphasized. We were determined that environmental impact and energy efficiency, health, and environmental literacy would all be part of our new program.
I can't thank the many people here today enough who lent their expertise, time, and support to help create the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools initiative. This program simply would not have been possible without many of you.
In particular, I want to acknowledge the U.S. Green Building Council Center for Green Schools, the Earth Day Network, the National Wildlife Federation, and, especially, the Campaign for Environmental Literacy."
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Keynote Address, Green Schools National Network Conference, Denver, Colorado