No Child Left Inside

By Alyson Klein — June 18, 2008 1 min read
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So, if you needed any more proof that reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act is absolutely, definitely not happening this year, take a look at the version of an environmental education bill that the House Education and Labor Committee approved today, with overwhelming bipartisan support.

The bill, dubbed the No Child Left Inside Act by its sponsor, Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., originally would have made $100 million in grants available to schools to bolster environmental education and was designed to be part of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. But the measure approved today was instead a revision of part of the National Environmental Education Act. That law, passed in 1990, requires the Environmental Protection Agency to promote environmental literacy. The change was made, in part because NCLB isn’t exactly a moving vehicle this year.

The revised bill would authorize $14 million to improve teacher training and professional development in environmental education, and it would authorize grants to districts and non-profit organizations to expand and improve environmental education programs. Those grants would be doled out by the secretary of education.

Many Republicans on the education committee supported the revised bill, which passed 37-8, in part because, unlike the original version, the measure no longer would create an expensive new program, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, the top GOP member on the committee, said.

And both McKeon and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the chairman of the committee, made it clear that this bill isn’t intended as a response to criticisms that the NCLB law’s focus on reading and mathematics has pushed environmental education (and other subjects) to the sidelines.

“There is a myth out there that NCLB tells schools exactly what to teach and when to teach it,” he said. “NCLB says students need to be proficient in reading and mathematics, but it doesn’t say they shouldn’t study other subjects.”

On a completely different, but still NCLB-related, subject, Miller told me today that he is vehemently opposed to a bill to temporarily suspend NCLB’s accountability provisionsthat some lawmakers are trying to get attached to the education spending bill.

“I think it’s destructive [in terms of] maintaining educational progress,” he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the NCLB: Act II blog.