Students will deliver climate change resolutions to Congress

Park Guthrie Lola Guthrie Citizens Climate Lobby

Youth-adult teams like Park Guthrie and his daughter will visit Congress in March, bringing school board resolutions about climate change.

Students will deliver climate change resolutions to Congress next month

By Philip Finkelstein

Last year, school boards across California started passing climate change resolutions at the urging of students who want protection from the growing threat of climate change. The initiative grew to school districts throughout the country, driven by a prospering effort called Schools for Climate Action (S4CA), led by CCL volunteer Park Guthrie. Today, 29 school boards in five states, teachers’ unions including the National American Federation of Teachers, and PTAs including the National PTA have made public statements calling for climate action, and sometimes specifically for a carbon fee and dividend.

S4CA has plans to travel to Washington, D.C., next month to deliver these climate change resolutions to every member of Congress. S4CA is working harder than ever to ensure that our representatives look out for those inheriting the country and the climate that comes with it.

Helping the campaign catch on

Schools for Climate ActionS4CA’s game plan involves connecting with D.C.-area school stakeholders (students, teachers, parents, board members, and community members) interested in amplifying the educational sector’s message that Congress has a moral imperative to protect students by acting on climate. The group will head to Washington with some momentum after passing a strong resolution in Washoe County, NV, in December.

Even more recently, a resolution passed in Santa Barbara Unified School District with zero advocacy from either S4CA or CCL. All it took was one local kindergarten teacher to discover S4CA online and then use the provided material to advocate for adoption of the proposal during open comment periods to her board. (Well done, Ellen!)

As the campaign continues to catch on, S4CA members are confident that even more support is attainable before they head to the Hill on Thursday, March 28. And the more schools to jump on board, the better the chance Congress will feel inclined to act.

Based on S4CA’s analysis of the 14,000 school boards and tens of thousands of student councils across the nation, only 0.005% of education leaders have publicly stated that Congress should act on climate change. However, S4CA suspects that many more of these leaders already hold such a conviction—the only impediments to engagement being the lack of precedent and awareness of the nonpartisan resolutions already passed. S4CA believes there’s potential for tens of thousands of these education leaders to speak up together and send a massive signal to Congress about the well-being of their students. If you’d like to reach out to your own local, county or state Boards of Education, contact S4CA to request a template email that you can customize to be appropriate for your area. This could generate scores of nonpartisan climate action resolutions before the end March.

Activities in Washington, D.C.

sonoma county board of supervisors climate change

Students are asking for protection from future, and current, climate impacts.

At the end of March, the team will host a kick-off panel and press conference on Capitol Hill. Then more than 30 youth-adult teams from nine states will hand-deliver the passed resolutions to every congressional office. S4CA will also be holding advocacy meetings with members of Congress to directly express the views of education sector leaders, while hearing the MoCs’ own ideas for advancing climate policy. While in D.C., the team will hold additional engagement meetings with education sector support organizations, such as the National Association of School Psychologists. Park says, “We believe the entire education sector can play an important role in building and amplifying the nonpartisan political will for common sense national climate policies.” At the same time, the National School Boards Association will also be considering a climate action resolution, demonstrating the education sector’s growing awareness of this issue.

Want to help?

This youth-adult grassroots campaign started off after a local California community was devastated by climate-related wildfires in October 2017. What was first a small effort has since grown into an irrepressible force thanks to the determination and dedication of CCL volunteers. The event in March is no different—CCLers are playing crucial roles in the planning, and the event is cosponsored by Young Voices for the Planet, founded by longtime CCLer Lynne Cherry. S4CA could use even more help from local CCL youth and youth-adult teams and will be hosting Zoom Meeting trainings in mid-March for those that are interested in helping to deliver resolutions on the Hill.

The push for climate action can include every citizen, young and old. Students in American elementary, middle, and high schools might not be able to vote, but that doesn’t mean their opinions and safety should be ignored. S4CA is giving a voice to our future, a future that CCL hopes will be healthy and livable for many generations to come.

Originally from Vermont, Philip Finkelstein is a recent Political Science graduate from the University of British Columbia. He has a deep passion for writing and desire to bring about meaningful change.