Sarah Bodor, Public Policy Director at the North American Environmental Education Association, led an education session at the NRPA Conference titled “New Funding for Parks and Recreation Education Programs Through the Every Student Succeeds Act.” The session focused on opportunities for park districts and parks and recreation agencies to access grant funding for environmental education and literacy. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the new federal education bill, which authorizes programs, policies and funding caps until 2021. ESSA includes environmental education as a fundable subject for the first time ever in a federal education bill. Although years of advocacy for the No Child Left Inside Act (NCLI) has not resulted in the bill being passed by Congress, language in NCLI was put into ESSA. This recognizes the value of “outdoor classrooms” and “experiential learning” in a child’s education. Environmental education is best taught and learned in a combination of traditional in the classroom and outdoor settings.
Parks and recreation agencies when partnering with public schools are eligible for environmental education grants under Title IV, Part A and Part B, under ESSA.
- Title IV, Part A 21st Century Schools is a grant program that supports “well rounded” education, which complements or extends subjects in the school’s core curriculum. U.S. Dept. of Education block grants to state departments of education, who subgrant to every school district in the state. The grant goes to the school district, but schools can partner with parks and recreation agencies. 21st Century Schools is a new Title under ESSA, including a wide variety of programs including STEM, field-based environmental education activities and service learning projects.
- Title IV, Part B, 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC) is a grant program funding afterschool and out-of-school programs, including environmental education and literacy programs. The U.S. Dept. of Education block grants to the state departments of education, who administer a competitive grant program which both schools and local governmental entities, community-based and nonprofit organizations are eligible grantees. Schools must always be included in the grant proposal e.g. if a parks and recreation agency were to receive 21stCCLC grant funding it would still have to partner with a local school to implement the program. The 21stCCLC grant program provides opportunities for children who come from economically disadvantaged families and attend low-performing schools (Title I schools) to receive academic support.
What’s next and what can I do? While 21st Century Schools and 21st Century Community Learning Centers are each authorized at around $1billion, Congress has to annually appropriate funds for these programs. Those appropriations are under consideration, but there will be a call to reduce or maybe zero out funding for these programs. The state departments of education are now in control of administering these grant programs, subject to the discretion of the appropriations process in Congress. 21stCCLC and 21st Century Schools grants under ESSA will probably be made available during the 2018-2019 school year. The school districts will decide what programs will be funded. NAAEE’s Sarah Bodor encouraged session attendees and our parks and recreation colleagues to reach out to our respective state department’s of education to advocate for environmental education in both Title IV, Part A 21st Century Schools and Title IV, Part B 21stCCLC. If you have questions or need more information go to the NAAEE website and hit the EE Pro Advocacy tab or e-mail me at email@example.com and I will be happy to help.Show