by Martha J. Kanter, Under Secretary of Education

This is an exciting time for those of us who care deeply about the role of higher education in building a more sustainable world, and I would like to express my appreciation for the work of the organizations and institutions involved with the ACUPCC.  Before joining the U.S. Department of Education as Under Secretary I served as chancellor of the Foothill – De Anza Community College District in California and was a member of the ACUPCC Steering Committee.

I understand the important work that each of you perform for your institutions every day, and would like you to know that the Department of Education is a strong leader and partner in these efforts.  We are developing a ‘Green Team’ to help facilitate environmental literacy efforts, and President Obama has placed resources in the 2011 education budget specifically to support environmental literacy.

As the Department prepares for the first ‘Green Education’ Summit this summer here in Washington, we recognize our national responsibility to promote an interchange of sustainability ideas and coordination among key stakeholders.  Better linkages among K-12 education, higher education, and the non-profit sector, as well as better federal interagency cooperation, will be essential to meeting our mutual goals. This invite-only Summit is statutorily defined by the Higher Education Act of 2008 and charges the Department of Education to help coordinate resources at a national level to improve the environmental literacy of our students and citizens. We welcome this responsibility and look forward to the work ahead.

We face numerous opportunities and challenges as we move forward on this important agenda.

The President has called for the US to lead the world in graduation and workforce competitiveness by 2020.  Community colleges are the backbone of our nation’s educational and workforce systems, providing post-secondary education and job training to millions of Americans and serving as the critical pipeline to postsecondary education, job training, and economic vitality.  Yet they are bursting at the seams, heavily under-resourced, and lack incentives to innovate.  The American Graduation Initiative would ensure that community college facilities are physically able to meet the challenges of educating students and workers. Many community college facilities are over 50 years old and lack the space and/or technology needed to train the burgeoning numbers of students for jobs in high-demand and high-growth industries. These funds would expand colleges’ ability to meet employer and student needs. In addition, the funds encourage and promote renovation and new construction that embed sustainable practices and energy conservation.

Thanks to education funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, States received billions of dollars to boost education operations and instruction.  This includes money that can be used for construction and renovation of school buildings through the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund.
Another ARRA program, administered by the Treasury Department, provides states and local governments with the ability to issue a new type of credit bond for construction, rehabilitation, or repairs to school facilities or for acquisition of land for construction of school facilities. In addition, other federal agencies, such as the Departments of Energy, Interior and Agriculture, also have stimulus funds that can be used for modernization, renovation, and repair of public school facilities that will create jobs and pump money into local construction industries.

Finally, and perhaps ultimately more importantly than the buildings, our national commitment to educating our students for a more sustainable world is paramount. Fiscal support within the President’s recent budget to improve environmental education signals strong support for our mutual work at the highest levels of our national government. We are excited to have this opportunity to move this crucial agenda forward.

The work that you do every day in support of the ACUPCC will lead to better outcomes for our students and the environment.  Thank you.