In an effort to prepare students for the workforce of the 21st century and combat "nature-deficit disorder," the House passed the No Child Left Inside Act of 2008 (H.R. 3036) on 18 September by a vote of 293-109. The legislation, if passed by the Senate, would reauthorize the National Environmental Education Act (NEAA) of 1990 at a level of $14 million for fiscal year (FY) 2009. Current amendments call for the enhancement of teacher training and professional development, the encouragement of minorities to pursue environmental careers, and the recruitment of mid-career environmental professionals to consider employment in environmental education.
Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD), the bill's sponsor, stated, "Through the passage of this legislation, we've made real progress in ensuring that environmental education becomes a priority in our schools."
No Child Left Inside would establish a "national capacity environmental education grant program" to encourage the development of programs which "help the field of environmental education become more effective and widely practiced." If passed by the Senate and signed by the President, these environmental education grants could be used for the development of state environmental literacy plans, implementing academic standards and curricula, evaluating the effectiveness of environmental education programs in improving student's scores in other academic areas, and increasing the number of environmental educators in elementary and secondary schools. Although this grant program would supplement other sources of environmental education funding, the act would not authorize a specific funding level for these grants for the next fiscal year.
The NEEA of 1990 authorized funding for environmental education by way of the Environmental Protection Agency through the 1996 fiscal year. Since FY 1996, Congress has continued to fund this program without passing reauthorization legislation. Beginning with FY 2003, the presidential budget request has continually eliminated this program because it was no longer authorized, only to have it restored by Congress. Funding levels for the program have ranged from $5.3 to 9.1 million during the FY 2003-2008. The FY 2009 budget request did not include funds for environmental education.
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