ear Trustees/CSBA Delegates,
Thank you for your service as school board members and as delegates to the CSBA. My name is Park Guthrie and I am a 6th grade teacher in Sonoma County, CA. As an 18+ year California public school teacher and parent of 3 school kids, I appreciate your work and commitment to California public schools. I am also a co-founder and lead volunteer of the non-partisan, youth-adult, grassroots Schools for Climate Action campaign. We were founded by students, teachers, and parents in Sonoma County, California in July of 2017.
Please consider a non-partisan CSBA climate action resolution at the delegate assembly in San Francisco next week. In 2015, the California PTA passed a resolution describing climate change as a "children's issue". This resolution enumerated some of the many ways that our national climate inaction threatens current and future students. Since this resolution has passed, hundreds of thousands of California school kids have been exposed to climate-related harm and trauma. Yet, during the same time period, our federal government and Congress have repeatedly neglected to act to mitigate this threat to our students.
In the past 11 months, at the urging of our campaign and in direct response to national climate neglect, 27 school boards and one student council in California, Colorado, New York, and Virginia have passed non-partisan climate action resolutions articulating the moral imperative for Congress to act on climate change to protect our students and future generations. Several of you included in this email have voted for climate action resolutions on your local or county school boards; thank you for your important leadership and courageous example!
The Pacific Region Trustees of the National School Boards Association have proposed this strong, non-partisan climate action resolution which will be considered in March, 2019.
Proposed NSBA Climate Change Resolution
As CSBA delegates, you have tremendous power to articulate the non-partisan will of the educational sector for commonsense Congressional action on climate change. Please pass a strong climate action resolution in the CSBA Assembly and engage the CSBA board, the CA State Board of Education, and the NSBA board to join you.
Here is our current proposed template:
Model School District Climate Action Resolution...
Here are 5 strong examples of school board climate action resolutions
Albany (CA) Unified School District Climate Action Resolution
San Lorenzo Unified School District Climate Action Resolution
Harmony Union School District Climate Action Resolution
Sonoma COE Commitment to Climate Change Action Resolution
Tamalpais Union High School District Climate Action Resolution
The Credo High School student council climate action resolution specifically encourages the CSBA, the NSBA, and the State Board of Education to stand with them and pass their own climate action resolutions. Here is the language in the Credo High School student council resolution pertaining to the CSBA: "We encourage other student councils, school district boards, county boards of education, state boards of education, and the board of the California School Board Association, and the board of the National School Board Association to all pass climate action resolutions similar to ours, calling on Congress to enact swift, fair, and effective climate policies in order to protect current and future students." Young people are respectfully requesting all of their elders to speak up for climate action to protect their generation.
As the only elected leaders with a singular focus on the well-being and future success of young people, all 90,000 school board members in the country have standing to speak up, in their official capacity, for national climate action to help protect students. So far, only about 250 have officially done so in school board resolutions. This relative silence from the education sector is deeply incoherent given our shared values (science is a useful tool to understand the world, elders protect students, be fair, pick up after yourselves, speak up for justice, our nation can be a force for good in the world, etc.) and mission. Our students will face predictable climate harm partially due to national climate neglect. The non-partisan voices of school communities and education sector leaders can help prevent this harm by helping to move Congress to act. Thanks to non-partisan climate action resolutions, no education leader needs to be a silent witness to our national climate neglect.
In an ideal world, it would not fall to school board members to advocate for commonsense national climate policies which would protect students and future generations. Unfortunately, partisan efforts to politicize climate science and undermine societal trust in climate science have been highly effective. Indeed, even the CSBA seems to have a working norm against using the words "climate change"; a longtime CSBA staffer met with my son and me in the summer of 2018. We inquired whether or not the CSBA had a program to measure climate change impacts on California schools or school kids, the staffer replied (clearly frustrated) with something along the lines of "We don't and if we did, we would not be able to call it that. We'd have to call it 'air quality' or something like that. The words "climate change" are considered too controversial, too political around here." Recent publications and social media from the CSBA seem to also suggest that climate silence is an institutional norm. More information below.
You could flip this norm for silence about generational climate justice at the CSBA; in doing so, you would help all Americans and members of Congress more accurately perceive and understand the ways in which our national climate inaction directly harms our students and future generations. Were the CSBA to pass a strong climate action resolution likely hundreds of school boards and student councils from across the state would follow suit. This would set off a groundswell of climate action resolutions from across the country. Members of Congress have told us that the unified, non-partisan voices of the educational sector speaking up for national climate action would play an important role in moving Congress to act to restore a safe climate for our young people.
You have so many important priorities and you already do so much important work increasing resources for schools and advancing educational equity. You have worked hard to embody the values of climate responsibility by supporting district sustainability and/or climate literacy initiatives. Indeed, California schools lead the nation in these kinds of efforts. It should not also fall to you, the CSBA, the NSBA, or even the environmental education sector to advocate for Congressional action to preserve a safe climate. However, all signals suggest without novel and significant leverage, Congress will not act on climate quickly enough to avoid increased climate harm---potentially catastrophic---to our students. We should continue the important local and state work to restore the climate, but we should not consent to the absurdity that our nation should not also act according to science and our best values. By the time my sixth grade students graduate from high school and become voters, no matter how climate literate they are and how carbon-neutral our schools are, if our national government has not also acted in their best interest, the climate problem will likely overwhelm the ability of their generation to act on it.
Your actions next week can help "scaffold" this enormous problem for them. You and the CSBA have tremendous power next week to help manage the unscientific socio-politically transmitted mental schema and perceptual filters which lead to the national climate inaction so threatening our young people and our institutional coherence. With little or no investment of additional resources, you could help lead the education sector to speak with one non-partisan voice to help break the logjam on climate action in Congress. It would cost nothing and could make a tremendous positive impact on our students and future generations. Please help break silence on generational climate justice.
I understand that the resolution process at the CSBA may take months. Unfortunately, climate scientists have made it clear that the window for action to prevent possible catastrophic consequences within our students' lifetimes is quickly closing. To prevent possible widespread humanitarian climate disasters by 2040, the most recent UN-IPCC report suggests that the transition to a carbon-free economy needs to be well underway by 2030. The educational sector (CSBA, NSBA, local, county and state school boards, environmental education non-profits, etc.) can immediately send non-partisan signals to the 116th Congress by issuing similar or joint press releases on 1.10.19. Please consider encouraging your local and county school districts and the CSBA to issue this press release on January 10th, 2019 (1 week into the new 116th Congress):
Proposed Education Sector Climate Change Press ...
Please contact me if you have questions or need additional information.
Thank you so much for reading and for your work supporting great public schools for California kids. During this time of giving thanks, I am very grateful for your service and your leadership.
Schools for Climate Action Co-Founder and Lead Volunteer
We are encouraging all education sector leaders, agencies, andorganizations to release press releases on January 10th, 2019 officially encouraging the 116th Congress to be the first Congress to act on climate change. The education sector is dramatically impacted by Congressional climate inaction in many ways and we all have significant standing to make a non-partisan appeal for national climate action.
Here is a draft of the release the Schools for Climate Action campaign will share. Other leaders, organizations, and agencies are encouraged to use this as a starting point, but to modify it as they see fit. The core message that should remain is that climate change is bad for schools and young people and that Congress should act quickly and boldly.
Please keep us posted both the individuals and organizations you engage and also commitments they make to do a press release on 1.10.19.
Here are the kinds of individuals/organizations/agencies we hope will speak up with us by issuing a press release on 1.10.19:
We will collect press releases and share with Congress when we go in March.
Thanks for reading and for your work spreading the word about ways the education sector can speak up for national climate action to protect our students.
The text of the 11.16.18 version is pasted below, although but check the link above for updates:
Proposed Education Sector Joint Press Release Calling on the 116th Congress to Act on Climate Change
to be released on 1.10.19
“As the leaders of thousands of school districts, boards of education, student councils, various school system support organizations, and millions of school stakeholders from across our great country, we thank you, the members of the 116th Congress, for your leadership and for your service to all Americans. We especially appreciate your commitment to young people.
As educators and educational leaders, young people are our primary constituents. Everything we do, in our official capacity, should help empower young people to create healthy, successful, and thriving futures for themselves, for their families and communities, and for our country.
It is with this goal in mind that we have taken the extraordinary step of coming together to speak up for Congressional climate action to protect our students and all future generations of Americans. Climate change is a children’s issue, a generational justice issue, and a human rights issue. We come together to respectfully call on this 116th Congress to also come together---across party lines---to act boldly and effectively to preserve a safe climate. We, educational leaders and the school communities we serve, need you, the 116th Congress, to act on climate change. There are multiple common sense policies---carbon pricing, 100% clean energy policies, and science-based climate restoration plans---which you could quickly enact to get us started down the path towards climate restoration. Time is of the essence.
Due to new scientific insights and the direct experience of climate-related disasters during the 114th and 115th Congress, the direct threat of unmitigated climate change to all young Americans and future generations has never been more clear to us, the educational sector.
Previous Congresses have not acted responsibly to prevent catastrophic climate change despite clear and consistent appeals from the scientific community. It is not too late, but you, the 116th Congress, must act quickly and boldly to protect young people from harm.
Continued Congressional inaction on climate undermines our schools and our mission to empower young people to thrive and succeed. Continued Congressional climate inaction undermines our generational moral authority. Continued Congressional climate inaction makes it likely that our young people will face overwhelming humanitarian climate disasters within their lifetimes. Continued Congressional climate inaction conditions our young people and our vital public institutions to accept incoherence and irrelevance from our federal government which could become an existential threat to our democracy.
No matter how successful the educational sector is at transmitting sustainability skills and civic engagement to our young people, if you, the 116th Congress do not act decisively on climate change, the problem may grow faster than the abilities of our young people to manage.
As educators, we are the sector most clearly able to see and understand the moral and humanitarian impacts of Congress’ climate inaction.
Our love and respect for our students, our country, and our democracy mean that we will no longer be silent about Congressional climate neglect. Congressional inaction on climate change threatens our mission, our values, our democracy, and most tragically our young people. You, the 116th Congress, can act on climate. Our young people are precious and miraculous. You must act on climate change to give them an opportunity to thrive and prosper.
Thank you for your consideration, for your service, and for acting on climate change to protect all Americans. On March 27th, 2019, youth-adult delegations will visit Congress to hand-deliver climate action resolutions from school communities across the country. This will be an opportunity for you to communicate your plans for national climate action with the educational sector. We trust that the 116th Congress will do the right thing by our climate for our current students and all future generations.”
Rationale: On January 3rd, 2019 the 116th Congress will be sworn in. This Congress will serve until January, 2021. Given the recent UN-IPCC report and the series of climate-related disasters which have traumatized millions of American school children during the 115th Congress, the 116th Congress should be the one to finally act boldly and effectively to minimize the threat of climate change to young people and future generations. All evidence, past precedent, and conventional thinking from Washington insiders suggests that the 116th Congress will not act on climate change. This should be unacceptable to the educational sector.
Educational leaders from across the country can take the extraordinary step of speaking together, with one non-partisan voice, to help move Congress to act on climate to protect students. One week into the new Congress, on January 10th, educational leaders from across America can host coordinated press conferences and issue a joint press release similar to the one above, clearly articulating the moral imperative for this new Congress to take bold, fair, and effective climate action within the next two years.
It is not standard practice for educational leaders to speak so publicly and assertively about policy issues. However, climate change and our complete lack of a coherent national climate policy is outside the bounds of our shared values, norms, and scientific understandings.
Our institution exists to cultivate young people who act in an scientifically literate, just, patriotic, compassionate, and optimistic ways. We, educators and educational leaders, work hard to embody these same values ourselves. For more than 30 years, the educational sector has stood by, hoping Congress would do the right thing on climate for our students. At first, this silence simply demonstrated faith in our American system of government and in norms of governance. Now, especially given the certainty of climate science and the immediacy of the impacts of climate change and climate inaction, we should no longer silently ignore the direct link between national climate inaction and (those who support this inaction) and the direct harm and risk to our primary constituents, young people. Our silence about Congressional inaction undermines our mission and our institutional moral authority. By raising our voices together to help correct generational climate neglect, we act in accordance with the same values we help our students develop.
It is for this reason that educational leaders take the extraordinary step of setting aside traditional norms guiding their relationship with federal electeds in order to speak up publicly and assertively for national climate action.
In addition, if we do not speak clearly about the confusing, unscientific behavior by federal electeds, students may internalize this incoherence within their own the mental schema. Our words may not move Congress to act in a way that aligns with our shared values (they might, though), but by publicly highlighting this incoherence in Congressional behavior, we can help our students build a more accurate, coherent and healthy mental schema related to our socio-ecosystem. We help prevent them from normalizing mental frameworks in which Americans expect our federal government to be incapable of taking common sense action to protect young people, our highest value. If we teach them to internalize this expectation, our very democracy itself will be threatened.
Please encourage all school stakeholders---Superintendent’s, educational leaders, school board members, student council members, PTA officers, educator’s union presidents, and school support non-profits---to issue this press release (or a similar one) on January 10th, 2019.
This is not an effort that needs to be centrally managed. Each group or individual educational leader can just signal to others that they will release the press statement and/or hold a press conference. Each individual or group can modify or edit this press release as they see fit. If enough of us January 10th, it will have an impact. Please be sure to share links to your press statements with firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be visiting Congress in March, 2019 and lots of press statements (and resolutions) from across the ed sector will help us make the case to Congress that the education sector wants bold, effective action on climate change.
Please contact email@example.com or visit www.schoolsforclimateaction.org. I’ll post a link to our website listing groups and individuals who will be participating.
Thanks so much!
6th grade teacher and co-founder of Schools for Climate Action
Kai Guthrie is a ninth grade student at Credo High in Rohnert Park, a Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteer, and one of the founders of Schools for Climate Action campaign.