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S.C. Official Says 'No Thanks' to Green-Ribbon Schools

Although a majority of states are planning to nominate so-called Green-Ribbon Schools under a new federal awards program, South Carolina is not among them.

In fact, the state superintendent contends that the program is really about "placating environmental lobbyists," he wrote in a letter last month to the U.S. Department of Education.

State Superintendent Mick Zais complained in the Nov. 22 letter that the initiative has too many "burdensome" requirements.

"A dollar spent 'greening' a school is a dollar not spent in the classroom improving educational outcomes for students," he wrote.

The federal Education Department today announced that 33 states plus the District of Columbia had notified the feds of their intention to nominate schools for the new awards program, which honors schools that come closest to achieving a "net zero" environmental impact from their facilities, a "net positive impact" on the health of students and staff, and "100 percent environmentally literate graduates," the department said in a press release.

We reported here in late September that the department had released details of the new program. It was developed by the Education Department with support and advice from the Environmental Protection Agency and the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Up to 50 awards will be made in April, with plans over five years to expand that figure to 200 annual awards.

(Speaking of environmental literacy, on Friday we reported here about a new framework to guide assessments in this area.)

In the press release today, Secretary Duncan hailed the program's potential to encourage schools to improve their energy efficiency, create healthy environments, and "enhance their work to effectively prepare graduates for 21st-century careers."

But the state superintendent in South Carolina apparently was not impressed with this idea.

"The proposed requirements have a financial cost that will be borne by state and local taxpayers, not the federal government," he wrote. "Rather than creating a new ribbon-recognition program, the federal government should work to enhance the National Blue Ribbon Schools program."

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