States Nominate Green Ribbon Schools – But Not S. Carolina

The U.S. Department of Education has announced that they have received intents to nominate schools from 33 states and the District of Columbia for the new Green Ribbon Schools awards program launched earlier this year.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:

“We are excited about the potential impact the Green Ribbon Schools awards program can have in encouraging schools to improve their energy efficiency, create healthy environments for students and staff, and enhance their work to effectively prepare graduates for 21st century careers.”

This comes as ten schools from across the country – including New York’s French American Charter School and Samuel Powel Elementary in Philadelphia – have been selected as finalists in the Global Green USA Green School Makeover Competition.

The list of finalists includes public, private and charter schools. The ten were seen to have best met the remit of proposing green improvements, such as planting organic vegetable gardens, creating recycling programs, and adopting energy-efficiency upgrades.

The winner is to receive a grand prize for energy efficiency and sustainability upgrades, valued at $130,000.

As part of the Green Ribbon Schools award program, states have been asked to nominate schools in their district that come closest to achieving Green Ribbon sets: net zero environmental impact of facilities, net positive health impact on students and staff, and 100% environmentally literate graduates.

U.S. Green Building Council Center for Green Schools Director Rachel Gutter remarked that the program is “the biggest thing to happen to the green schools movement.”

Despite these tough economic times, the program looks to bring more private and public resources to support schools, facilitating collaboration among federal agencies, state governments and non-governmental entities.

However, one state that won’t be involved is South Carolina. As Superintendent of Education Mick Zais refuses to nominate any of his schools for the federal program, writes Diette Courrege at the Post and Courier.

Zais believes that the program’s requirements are too burdensome and too expensive for local taxpayers. Zais has consistently opposed the federal’s government’s role in state education, believing that it should be minimized.

He wrote in a letter to state officials that the federal government should work on improving a similar program for academics, Blue Ribbon Schools, rather “than creating a new program that isn’t focused on students, but rather placating environmental lobbyists.”

“It’s a pretty startling message to hear we don’t want to participate in this program,” said Megan Desrosiers, assistant director of the Coastal Conservation League.

“It’s kind of saying we don’t want to educate our children about this. We don’t think energy conservation or buying fresh, local vegetables is important enough to teach our children.”

The states that are participating in the program are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin, alongside the district of Columbia. The Department also received intent to nominate from the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Education school district.

States are to submit nominees to the Department by March 22, 2012. The Department is set to announce winners in April, 2012 and will host the first national U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools ceremony in May 2012.

The national ceremony will be followed by local ceremonies at each of the winning schools in fall 2012.