President’s Budget Eliminates Environmental Education. Again.

In President Obama’s Inaugural and State of the Union addresses, he outlined the need for the United States to lead the world in both the transition to a clean energy economy and in fostering leaders in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

Yet just yesterday, the Administration’s budget proposal effectively eliminated two critical programs designed to meet both goals at once – the highly important environmental education programs of EPA and NOAA.

Let’s take a look back…

What Obama Said Then

Earlier this year during the President’s Inaugural address, he spoke to these issues:

“The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise.”

And then a few weeks later at the State of the Union:

“Now, if we want to make the best products, we also have to invest in the best ideas.  Every dollar we invested to map the human genome returned $140 to our economy — every dollar. Today, our scientists are mapping the human brain to unlock the answers to Alzheimer’s. They’re developing drugs to regenerate damaged organs; devising new material to make batteries 10 times more powerful. Now is not the time to gut these job-creating investments in science and innovation. Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race.  We need to make those investments.  Today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy…”

For a few years now I have struggled to understand why the Administration has failed to realize that we must invest not only in clean energy technology, but also in the education of American students and workers.  There is a disconnect here.

This investment in preparing the American people for the clean energy economy has a name: environmental education. Without it, the United States will never lead the transition to a clean energy economy.

Why Environmental Ed. is Critical to our Future

Environmental education happens at institutions of higher education (including community colleges), K-12 schools, career and technical education centers, and through innovative partnerships with non-profits, apprenticeship programs, business and others that will help create and strengthen education and re-training programs, curricula, and courses.

And earlier this week, with the release of the Administration’s budget, EPA’s and NOAA’s environmental education programs have been marked for elimination, even though they have bipartisan support in Congress (technically, NOAA’s programs are expected to be “consolidated” with other science, technology, engineering and math programs and details will not be available for a few more days).

These reductions would eliminate already woefully underfunded grant programs for child-serving organizations, schools, nature centers, zoos, aquariums and teacher training programs in nearly every community.

And let’s be honest, while these programs provide critical funding for teachers and communities nationwide, $25 million is a rounding error in the $1 trillion federal budget.  If the United States is to lead the global transition to a clean energy economy, to lead the world in science and technology, to spark the next space race or human genome product, $25 million is not going to cut it! 

We need an investment of billions of dollars across all levels of education. We need leadership to educate, train and prepare all Americans for this transition to a green economy.

What Do You Think?

We at the National Wildlife Federation would like to hear from YOU about your ideas for how we get there.  How can we, together, get Congress and the Administration, Republicans and Democrats, the public at large behind an agenda to truly prepare Americans for the clean energy economy?

Please leave a comment below!