April 20, 2009

With Schools Forced To Eliminate Environmental Education Programs Due To Budget Cuts, Senator Gillibrand Joins Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Local Students to Call For Federal Investment in Environmental Education

With Earth Day Around The Corner, Gillibrand Announces Legislation To Authorize $100 Million To Support Environmental Education Programs In Schools

New York, NY- U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Vice Chair of Riverkeeper; Murray Fisher, Founder and Program Director of the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School (NYHS); and NYHS students today, on Pier 16 at the South Street Seaport to call for federal investment in environmental education. There is a critical need to preserve funding for environmental literacy programs for institutions like the NYHS that provide a foundation to help students develop the skills needed to succeed the green economy of the future. Due to budget cuts, schools are often forced to scale back or eliminate environmental education programs. Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, announced legislation that will be introduced this week to authorize $100 million over the next five years to support environmental education programs in schools.
 
“During these tough economic times, we need to continue investing in environmental education to prepare our students for the new green economy,” said Senator Gillibrand, a mother of two young sons. “The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School is a model for environmental education. Their focus and dedication needs to be replicated here in New York and throughout the country. No Child Left Inside provides critical funding to ensure that our children receive hands-on education that connects them with environment and prepares them for the future. Investing in education is one the most important things we can do, and I am committed to improving educational opportunities for all of our children.”
 
“Educating students on issues like resource conservation, wildlife protection, and water quality have become as critical today as traditional subjects like math and literature. A strong stewardship curriculum provides a connection to the local environment, and gives today’s youth exposure to a green economy that is becoming an integral part of America’s future.  I applaud Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in cosponsoring the No Child Left Inside Act, and I look forward to working with her to ensure that environmental literacy in our schools does not fall by the wayside,” said Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Riverkeeper Vice Chair.
 
“The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School has been blessed that we have the private support to be able to offer our students an environmental education that connects them to the New York Harbor and provides them a pathway to environmental and maritime careers. We believe these types of environmental programs to be a fundamental and necessary component of any public education. This legislation will finally provide more students across the country these kinds of opportunities which have a proven academic track record of success,” said Murray Fisher.
 
Climate change, conservation of natural resources, maintaining clean air and water, and other environmental challenges are pressing and complex issues that influence human health, economic development, and national security. Finding wide-spread agreement about what specific steps we need to take to solve these problems is difficult.  Providing funding for environmental education will help ensure our nation’s children have the knowledge and skills necessary to address these complex issues.
 
The No Child Left Inside Act would provide competitive grant funding with the aim of increasing environment literacy and promoting professional development for teachers in order to provide a foundation to help students develop the skills needed to become good stewards of our environment. Not only could institutions like the NYHS benefit under this legislation, but the environmental education programs they have developed have become critical to preparing our students for the green economy.
 
Specifically, the No Child Left Inside Act would:
 
Require states to develop Environmental Literacy Plans for elementary and secondary school student in order to obtain grant funding for environmental education programs for students and professional development for teachers of environmental education. 
 
Authorize $100 million each year for FY’10 through FY’14 to states for implementation of the environmental literacy plans.
 
Authorize funding for the Secretary of Education to make competitive grants to build national capacity in environmental education. 
 
Incorporate training for teachers on the use of field-based, service, and experiential learning to provide innovative and interdisciplinary instruction to students.
 
The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School (NYHS) is a public high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn that offers hands-on, inquiry-based learning in a natural environment to stimulate curiosity, critical thinking, and vision, all of which lead to improved academic performance. The school’s Founding Partners are the Urban Assembly, South Street Seaport Museum, and Waterkeeper Alliance.