U.S. Rep. Fitzpatrick co-sponsors bill to increase environmental education

 A foggy morning in Newtown Township, Pa. (Mel Evans/AP Photo, file)

A foggy morning in Newtown Township, Pa. (Mel Evans/AP Photo, file)

Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks County is pushing a bill to expand environmental education programs from kindergarten through high school.

The “No Child Left Inside Act” would help states find funding for environmental literacy programs, including some that get kids outdoors to experience nature.

The legislation streamlines federal grants funding environmental education. It allocates 70 percent of the money for the development of K-12 education plans, and remainder to create partnerships between schools and environmental nonprofits.

The bill requires state environmental literacy programs to incorporate outdoor recreation. Children spend a lot of time indoors, says Fitzpatrick, “and that’s just not good.” It leads to childhood obesity and other health problems, he said.

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He also said that the bill will foster environmental stewardship.

“Growing up in Bucks County, at a different time, I had the opportunity of spending a lot of time outside,” he said. “And I know that that, during the developmental years, for me impacted the way I view the environment and my environmental responsibilities as an adult.”

Environmental education is “a down payment on our progress as a society,” Fitzpatrick said. “It leads to environmentally literate leaders in the future.”

It might be more difficult to implement hands-on environmental programs in cities, Fitzpatrick said, but “it’s important for the federal government to provide the mechanisms to do that.”

Fitzpatrick — a Republican — introduced the bill along with Democratic U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland. Sens. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, and Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, have introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

The bill takes its name from a national movement to increase environmental education.

A similar bill was passed by the House in 2008, but didn’t make it through the Senate.

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