SunWise isn’t the only EPA education program on the budget chopping block.
The Obama administration also has proposed eliminating the almost $10 million environmental-education program, which offers grants for projects that increase public awareness about environmental issues. The White House recommended eliminating the program in its fiscal 2013 budget and renewed the proposal in its fiscal 2014 blueprint.
The National Environmental Education Act of 1990 (PL 101-619) authorized the EPA to create environmental-education programs for elementary and high schools, though efforts to reauthorize the program faltered in 2008 and 2010 when Democrats controlled Congress. The Bush administration suggested eliminating the program in each of its budget proposals starting in fiscal 2003.
Grants under the program also support community organizations and teacher training in environmental issues, said Patrick Fitzgerald, senior director of education management at the National Wildlife Federation.
Members of Congress have partnered with local, state and national conservation groups in imploring appropriators to maintain the funding, with Colorado Democrat Jared Polis spearheading the House effort and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., leading the Senate fight.
“Educating our citizens and youth on cutting-edge strategies for making wise use of our natural resources base is increasingly critical as our nation moves towards a highly competitive global economy and addresses the challenges of providing clean air and water to our communities,” Gillibrand wrote in a letter to Senate appropriators.
Sen. Jack Reed, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the EPA, is seen as a champion of environmental education. The Rhode Island Democrat has sponsored bills to amend the No Child Left Behind education law (PL 107-110) to create new programs designed to promote outdoor recreation and conservation.