Leading Education, Environment Experts Call for Education Sector to Be Included in Infrastructure Legislation

March 11, 2021

K12 Climate Action Hosts Career and Technical Education Listening Session 

Nell Callahan

Jon Purves
Senior Media Relations Manager
Aspen Institute

Washington, DC, March 11, 2021 – Today, the Aspen Institute’s K12 Climate Action Commission, a group of education and environment experts and advocates, released policy principles for Congress and the White House to include in the highly anticipated infrastructure and jobs legislation that will begin working its way to approval this spring. The guiding principles will support our schools in becoming global models for sustainability and prepare our youth for the clean economy. The Commission, co-chaired by former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King and former New Jersey Governor and EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, is joined by a growing list of more than 20 organizations in supporting these principles. 

The recommendations include supporting schools in transitioning to net-zero energy, electrifying the nation’s school bus fleet, expanding access to green schoolyards (including school gardens), and increasing access to green CTE

“Schools are centers of their communities, and with over 98,000 schools across the country, are critical infrastructure that need upgrading,” said Whitman. “We have a historic opportunity to invest in our schools to become global models for sustainability, which will have long-term environmental and health benefits, cost savings for taxpayers, and job creation.” 

“To support the country’s transition to a clean economy across all sectors including infrastructure, energy, manufacturing, and agriculture, we must prepare the next generation for the good jobs of the future,” said King. “Career and Technical Education that integrates environmental sustainability and exposes students to in-demand green industries needs to be more widely available, especially in Black and Brown communities, and we must use these high-quality CTE programs to create real on-ramps to good jobs.” 

The briefing points to the unique opportunity to provide federal support for school-based initiatives that will better prepare schools and students to address the impacts of climate change. As policymakers consider opportunities to stimulate the economy, build back better, and create jobs, they can ensure youth are centered in our recovery and action. Investing in school infrastructure can create jobs now, further ensure the health, safety, and well-being of students and educators, improve learning outcomes and the environmental and fiscal sustainability of schools, and build resilience for communities.

This briefing is a continuation of K12 Climate Action’s ongoing work to explore the needs and opportunities for the education sector to be part of climate change solutions. On March 18, the organization will host a listening session with experts on CTE and how enhancing and expanding these programs can help meet the needs of the new green economy. Members of the media and interested public can register here to participate in the session. 

K12 Climate Action consists of 22 commissioners and over 40 coalition partners. It will release an action plan in 2021 that will harness schools’ unique position to educate and prepare a new generation of students to advance a more sustainable world. 

K12 Climate Action has four key areas of focus: 

  • Mitigate: transitioning to more sustainable operations including energy, transportation, and food use; 
  • Adapt: building resilience in preparation for disruptions and negative impacts related to climate change; 
  • Educate: supporting teaching and learning to equip children and youth with the knowledge and skills to build a more sustainable world; and 
  • Advance Equity: centering the voices and needs of Black, Latinx, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Indigenous and other communities of color as well as low-income students and families. 

In the United States, 50 million children and young people attend public schools. With 98,000 schools, 480,000 diesel school buses, and 7 billion meals served annually, the education sector has a considerable environmental impact and offers one of the greatest opportunities to build long-lasting change to advance sustainability.

For more information, visit k12climateaction.org and join the conversation by following K12 Climate Action on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners. For more information, visit www.aspeninstitute.org.

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