Every Student Succeeds Act

Download ESSA and Environmental Education Fact Sheet

Outreach to School Districts about Funding Opportunities


Overview of the Every Student Succeeds Act

The bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind, was signed into law on December 10th, 2016. The much-anticipated bill includes language that, for the first time, supports opportunities to provide students with environmental education and hands-on, field-based learning experiences.

The gains for environmental education come as a result of years-long work by champions of the bipartisan No Child Left Inside (NCLI) Act, which sought to secure federal dollars to support states’ efforts to implement environmental literacy plans in K-12 public schools.  Sponsors of the original NCLI Act, Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Congressman John Sarbanes of Maryland authored and championed the language that ultimately was included in the bill.

Under Title IV of the new bill, environmental education would be eligible for funding through grants to states for “programs and activities that support access to a well-rounded education.” Environmental literacy programs are now also included among eligible programs for funding through 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. Additionally, the inclusion of Title IV funds for hands-on, field-based, or service learning to enhance understanding of science, technology, engineering and math subjects provides a potential boost for environmental science education programs.

The inclusion of environmental education in the Every Students Succeeds Act is a huge win for teachers, students, and schools and could potentially bolster efforts to implement Colorado’s Environmental Education Plan.  CAEE is working with the North American Association for Environmental Education to learn more about roll out of the act and how we can leverage this new opportunity to increase learning experiences in environmental education.  

Read more about the Environmental Education provision in the New Act from the North American Association for Environmental EducationSenator Jack Reed’s Office or access a White House Fact Sheet summarizing the overall bill.


Opportunities to Get Involved in Colorado

Environmental educators and other stakeholders have a critical opportunity over the next few months to encourage school district leaders to use applicable funds from the Every Student Succeeds Act for environmental education.  The ESSA is the law that governs K-12 education in the United States. Title IV of the ESSA makes environmental education explicitly eligible for funding for the first time. Moreover, the FY2018 federal budget includes $1.1 billion for Title IV Part A of the ESSA, nearly three times more than the FY17 budget. This significant increase makes the 2018-19 school year the first truly meaningful opportunity to leverage these funds for environmental education for most school districts.   

Federal funds will be distributed to states July 1, and states will then distribute funds to school districts, which have great latitude in how to use the money to provide a well-rounded education, including for environmental education. 

Tools and Resources

Teachers, schools and environmental education providers should take the opportunity to reach out the school district(s) they work with and encourage them to include environmental education in their plans for Title IV part A funds.  NAAEE has compiled a variety of tools to help us prepare for these conversations.  Check out NAAEE's Policy Initiatives page for new tools and tips for talking to school district administrators about using ESSA grants to support EE.  

Contact CAEE at director@caee.org if you would like to discuss any school district meetings you are able to set up.

CAEE works to ensure everyone in Colorado has an opportunity to learn about the environment where they live. We value inclusiveness and welcome everyone to the field of environmental education.

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