72 | Green Schools Catalyst Quarterly
corporations throughout the state.
Since Outdoor School is a popular program in
Oregon and the state has a relatively progressive
voter base, opposition to the campaign was
limited, and opponents focused their message
on the potential loss of economic development
funds from the lottery because of the diversion to
fund Measure 99 programs. “Outdoor School for
All” passed in November 2016 with 67% of the
public voting in favor.
As of April 2017, Oregon is facing a $1.8 billion
budget shortfall, and legislators will have to
make difficult decisions about the massive cuts
required. Outdoor School supporters across the
state are now working to ensure their voices are
heard and the voters’ wishes are reflected in the
decisions made to balance the budget.
Each reader will find their own lessons and
takeaways from these stories. The following seem
• Rarely does significant policy change come
out of nowhere; it inevitably builds on
smaller steps (and partnerships) made earlier
and the emergence of champions.
• Broad-based coalition building and
community buy-in are essential, as is
committed, long term leadership.
• Almost all successes depend heavily on
long-standing cooperation and collaboration
between the environmental education
stakeholder community and state education
and environmental agencies.
• The political landscape is constantly
changing, often in unpredictable ways.
Champions must be very attentive and
flexible to take advantage of unforeseen
opportunities that open up along the way.
This means, among other things, that
compromise is inevitable if one wants to win
– follow the mantra of former Secretary of
Education Arne Duncan, stay “tight on the
goals and loose on the means.”
• There are myriad legislative tools – executive
orders, amendments, by-laws, study bills
– that can be employed to achieve policy
goals. If one is not working, try another.
• Passing a new bill is not the last step. The
best laws on the books will sit on the shelf –
or be derailed by changes in state leadership
– without continuing efforts by champions to
implement and improve them.
Even if a policy initiative does not achieve its
goals or full implementation is stymied by lack
of funding or changes in political leadership
or climate, simply engaging in the process of
policy change can be immensely helpful. It can
be educational for the participants (stakeholders,
champions, legislative and agency members,
etc.), help embed and advance environmental
education in the minds of decision-makers,
provide a platform on which future champions
can build, and have any number of (sometimes
unexpected) ripple effects.
In sum, every state’s education system should
provide graduates with a grounding in the
principles of the natural systems around them,
and an understanding of the positive and
necessary role played by healthy natural resources
in building successful communities. To what
extent individual states help their own students
to graduate environmentally literate is up to
state legislators and environmental education
stakeholders. The good news is that there are
multiple pathways forward and many eager
partners to support the creation and passage of
good environmental literacy education policies.
Thanks to Angel Braestrup, Curtis and Edith
Munson Foundation, for her input and editorial