Potential Impact on Environmental Education of the Proposed FY 2016 & 2017 Budget

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Information provided by Jeremy Solin, Director (interim) of the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education at UWSP:

The infrastructure of environmental education in Wisconsin is in jeopardy. The proposed Wisconsin state budget affects the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education, the Department of Public Instruction Environmental Education Consultant position, and the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board.

  • Environmental education inspires people to pursue STEM-related careers in science, technology, environmental management, engineering, natural resources, green building, energy, and many more. Perhaps more importantly, environmental education in our schools and communities prepares people as informed, engaged decision-makers to care for the health and beauty of our communities and the places in this state that we love.

Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education (WCEE)

  • Repeals the state statute (36.25 (29m)) establishing the WCEE at UW-Stevens Point.
    The WCEE was created under Governor Thompson over 20 years ago to support K-12 environmental education in the state. The WCEE is a national and international model for private-public partnerships in EE. The repeal of the statute does not eliminate the WCEE, but creates risk for future funding and support of WCEE and its programs.
  • The current $200,000 in state general funding results in an additional $1 million private and public funding and 18 positions in forestry UWSP Signeducation (LEAF), energy education (KEEP), Green & Healthy Schools, the Nature Center Collaborative, and other environmental education programs annually.
  • Over 100,000 students each year learn about career paths in forestry, energy, technology, agriculture, food systems, engineering, and green business through WCEE programs.
  • Annually, 1,500 public and private teachers from across the state learn ways to enhance student learning and connect to natural resources. The WCEE has a network of 13,000 teachers who have participated in professional development.

DPI Environmental Education Consultant Position (DPI EE Consultant)

  • Eliminates appropriation and authority for DPI EE Consultant by repeal of statutes (20.285 (rm) and 36.49)
  • The DPI EE Consultant provides state level leadership to PK-12 districts with priorities in curriculum, instruction, and assessment in environmental science and environmental education.
  • Funding for the position is not from tax revenue, but from earnings on the state normal school trust fund.
  • The position supports school-based initiatives in STEM and outdoor learning to develop our state’s future workforce and entrepreneurs who also sustain the health of our environment.
  • This position facilitates strong connections between environmental education and college and career readiness.
  • The position creates opportunities for federal funding that may not otherwise be available.

Wisconsin Environmental Education Board (WEEB)

  • Eliminates the WEEB by repealing statutes (36.54 and 15.915 (6)); Eliminates funding for the general grants July 1, 2015; Eliminates funding for the school forest and forestry education grants July 1, 2016.
    WEEB was created under Governor Thompson to provide leadership for environmental education in the state. The Board represents private and public sectors including industry, labor, forestry, energy, conservation and education. Funding for the general grants comes from a surcharge on environmental fines; funding for the forestry education and school forest grants come the forestry account of the conservation fund.
  • Over the recent 10 year period, WEEB awarded nearly $4.5 million in grants to schools, non-profit organizations, tribal governments, municipalities, and agencies across the state. This funding leveraged an additional $5 million in support and 140,000 hours of service for projects serving over 900,000 participants.
  • Since the inception of the WEEB, 1,945 Wisconsin organizations across the state have benefited from grants.
  • Example workforce development projects funded by WEEB include: “Jobs in the Forest,” “Natural Resource Careers Workshop,” “Forester Training in Northwest Wisconsin,” and “Farm and Field Youth Training Program in Sustainable Agriculture.”