Have a Seat at Our Table: Outdoor Education Funding Update
We’re All Looking for Our Piece of the Pie, Right?
Shelley Barker
Outdoor Schools Washington
Greg Barker
Washington School Principals’ Education Foundation
Chase Buffington
Washington Outdoor School Consortium
Evaluation Criteria: Improving Instruction
No matter how you slice it, last year’s legislative session opened and ended with the creation of “Outdoor School for All,” an initial chance to get 20,000 fifth- or sixth-grade students to experience a multi-day overnight outdoor school program in Washington this year. OSPI’s $10 million in supplemental funding was a slice of pie and a kickstart to a bigger vision. In six months, Outdoor Schools Washington has contributed to helping support sites, recorded pre-reservations of over 14,000 students to attend outdoor school (to date), and assembled an advocacy group to help guide policy development for outdoor education. Where do we go from here? How about going for the whole pie?
At the beginning of this year’s session, Governor Inslee’s budget included a $52 million dollar proviso for outdoor school. Rep. Alicia Rule, D-Blaine, drafted HB 2078 to expand, enhance, broaden the reach, and permanently fund outdoor education, which will eventually impact the lives of every citizen in Washington by making outdoor school experiences a permanent part of our state’s culture. The bill was supported by lawmakers on all sides and was just signed by Governor Inslee. While the $52 million dollars proviso did not survive, the adopted budget set aside $10 million dollars per year for outdoor school, placing us well on our way to sending ALL of Washington’s 5th or 6th graders to a week of living and learning in nature.
Now that’s the whole pie we’ve been talking about! It sure will be something to watch the unfolding of this short session. If you aren’t buzzing about this yet, here’s the bottom line: It will only be a matter of time before ALL kids will have outdoor school be a part of their education experience!
As of late-February, $52 million of the governor’s budget for 2022 is slated for Outdoor Schools for All!
A recent study completed by Western Washington University (through a proviso by Governor Inslee) suggested that outdoor school presents an economic opportunity as well. The study showed that for every $1 invested in “Outdoor School for All,” we can expect to get $1.80 return on investment. We are creating a green economy and a workforce fueled by prosperity. Not only do the citizens of our state look to benefit, but we will also be making better lives for generations to come.
Approximately 30% of Washington fifth- or sixth-graders currently have outdoor education experiences. We know time spent in nature is the cornerstone to building connections, which leads to higher attendance in future grade levels, better test scores, and more kids walking down the aisle to graduation. Our schools have always expressed a strong desire to do more in the outdoors, but funding was the number one roadblock to securing such experiences. Permanent funding takes away that barrier and provides outdoor school for ALL kids.
This amazing opportunity has been placed before us, but we still need advocacy and support. We need partnerships with individuals, corporations, and foundations who share our vision of making outdoor school a permanent part of the culture in all Washington schools. This pie is big enough for every student in our state to have a slice – for now. Let’s work together to make sure there is plenty of pie for the generations of the future.
If you know someone who wants to pull a chair up to our table, reach out to outdoorschoolswa.org.
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Association of Washington School Principals
Washington Principal | Volume 2– 2021-22