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
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.