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Federal Funding for Programs Related to Environmental Education

The following are some major examples of federal funding that have been identified as available or peripherally related to the environmental education field (rather than earmarked specifically for it).

National Science Foundation (NSF): $50 million

NSF staff estimate that as much as $50 million of its science education funds now go to environmental literacy projects (only estimates are available because NSF does not formally track funds for EE). In addition, even greater amounts of funding go into the education and training components of NSF environmental research projects, usually to underwrite the costs of graduate and postgraduate students. As hopeful as this all sounds, NSF funding poses limits for the EE community since, by definition, NSF is focused only on science while EE often encompasses other fields. As a result, the NSF and its mission are not fully in synch with the broader scope of EE. Thus, NSF funding is an encouraging piece of the funding puzzle but is by no means a full solution.

For further information, please see the Quick Guide to Environmental Science Education Funding Opportunities at the National Science Foundation (PDF).

Department of Agriculture: $1-2 million

  • Forest Service Conservation Education Program: In FY 2000, 2001, and 2002, this program funded over 200 field conservation education projects, delivering educational messages on sustainable forestry, invasive species, water and watersheds and wildlife.
  • The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program: Four regional administrative councils award competitive grants for sustainable agriculture research and education. Generally ranging from $30,000 to $200,000, these grants fund interdisciplinary projects that usually involve scientists, producers, and others. The program also funds education and demonstration projects.

The Department of Education: $ Unknown

The Department of Education has apparently never supported an EE-specific initiative and does not explicitly encourage use of any its grant programs to advance or conduct EE. Nonetheless, the Leave No Child Behind Act embodies a number of funding opportunities that are available to, and have been accessed by, the EE community:

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program

Funds before-school, after-school, weekend, and summer programs designed to enhance school day academics. This program is highly hospitable to EE programs because it is free from school-day scheduling constraints, promotes partnerships with non-formal education and service learning providers, and allows both non-academic activities and academic ones. For example, the Plumas County school district in Quincy, CA developed an integrated art and environmental program. Its FY 2005 appropriation was approximately $991 million. As much as 32.5% of this total yearly figure has been allocated to new programs.

The Comprehensive School Reform Program

Supports the development, adoption, and implementation of comprehensive school reforms based on reliable research and effective practice that will improve the academic achievement of children in participating schools. Existing school reform models such as Environment as an Integrating Context have, in some cases, been successful applicants for CSRD funds. This program's FY 2005 appropriation: $250 million.

Public Charter Schools Program

Provides financial assistance for the design and initial implementation of charter schools, at least seven of which have adopted the environment as an organizing theme. For example, the mission of the Environmental Charter High School in Lawndale, CA is to provide a "student-centered, rigorous education that extends learning beyond the classroom walls and into local environments so that all students graduate with the knowledge, skills and values to become self-motivated, life-long learners and quality stewards of their community."

horizontal dotsNo Subject Left Behind: A Guide to Environmental Education Opportunities in the 2001 Education Act, National Environmental Education and Training Foundation, 2002.

For further information on specific grant opportunities, see the North American Association for Environmental Education's EELink.