To the Editor:
Over the years, Martha’s Vineyard has provided many opportunities to students to use our unique geography and community to learn valuable lessons about the environment. The financial situation of the Island community has allowed for many students, myself included, to participate in numerous field trips and educational opportunities that have inspired the environmental passions that still drive my learning goals today. Our federal government now has the chance to make those experiences a reality for students nationwide through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).
The ESSA is a rehashing of the well-intentioned No Child Left Behind Act, and was passed at the end of 2015. Two of the bill’s most important actions are the ESSA Title IV, Parts A and B. Together they provided $1.6 billion toward programs that could have been used for environmental education opportunities that would have allowed students to experience place-based, hands-on learning, and apply science, math, technology, and other topics to the real world. The current presidential administration has cut the budgets for Title IV programs to $0.
We, as a community so vulnerable to climate change, need to advocate for the funding of this bill to help educate the innovators who will provide the solutions to keep our home safe. Island schools have made recent progress in environmental education, with the MVRHS’s MVironment Club being honored earlier this year, and the success of local farm-to-school initiatives as just a few examples. We need to help other students get these same opportunities, and next year’s budget will not be voted on until December. There is still time, but we, as a community, need to make a collective effort to make sure that ESSA gets funded.