Part of EENC’s vision is that environmental education's substantial societal value is recognized and invested in widely by policymakers, funders, education institutions, and the general public through our advocacy work. This winter, EENC put this statement into action.
In late January, a bill was introduced to the N.C. House of Representatives to add a computer science graduation requirement. In its original form, the bill effectively eliminated the state’s Earth/Environmental Science graduation requirement. This requirement was established in 1997, ensuring that all high school graduates in our state have a baseline knowledge about the earth, climate, air, water, and natural world around them. North Carolina is recognized nationally as a leader in the environmental education community, and other states are looking to our Earth/Environmental Science graduation requirement as a model. Knowing that the course could become an elective or removed from the curriculum altogether, EENC took immediate action to protect this critical course.
Initial steps by staff and Board members included developing a policy toolkit for EENC advocacy committee members, drafting phone scripts and email templates emphasizing the importance of environmental science in secondary education, and consulting with partners and organizations with similar missions. Within the first week, EENC mobilized members who lived in the district of the bill sponsors asking them to reach out to their representatives. EENC contacted partner associations and began building a grassroots campaign around this issue. With passion building, local media picked up the story and editorials were run in the News & Observer, the Greensboro News & Record, and other outlets.
Working with the NC Science Teacher Association and the North Carolina Forestry Association, bill language was edited and changed prior to being presented to the K-12 Education Committee. The voices of EENC were heard, but ongoing concerns were raised in the updated language. Instead of specifically eliminating the Earth/Environmental Science, the new language still reduced the overall number of science graduation requirements (currently three) to make space for the new computer science course.
EENC and our partners continued to engage with the bill sponsors and the State Government Committee members, the bill’s next stop. EENC prepared bullet points and compiled research to help our partners prepare for 1:1 meetings with the bill sponsors, and had frequent strategy calls with allies who were also mobilizing to protect the requirement.
We are celebrating the power of our network! Thanks to our members, partners, and community, this legislation was changed not once, but twice. After three intense weeks working behind the scenes, House Bill 8 passed the State Government Committee Meeting with an amendment from the lead bill sponsor that protects the Earth/Environmental Science Graduation Requirement. The new version of the bill reduces the total number of elective credits instead of impacting science. Our vision that environmental education is a societal value was recognized.
EENC will continue to monitor this bill as it makes its way through the Senate (follow the bill’s progress). We learned about this bill thanks to a tip from one of our contacts. Our strength is in our people, so if you learn about legislation that impacts environmental education in our state in the future, please reach out to EENC’s Policy Chair to let us know.