Washington State prioritizes getting kids outside!  

The impact of COVID-19 on the field of residential environmental education is profound. The rapid rate of school cancellations will have drastic financial implications for our organization, our colleagues and all of our survival. The following letter is from environmental education organizations from Washington State urging leaders in the nation's capital include nonprofit businesses like North Cascades Institute and our peers.

Covid-19 forces Environmental Education Centers to refund $4M to Public Schools

Residential Environmental Education programs in Washington collectively serve over 50,000 Washington school kids each year. Our programs augment the learning that occurs in the classroom, and connect students to the amazing and awe-inspiring natural areas and parks here in our state.

We write today to share how Covid-19 is impacting us, believing that perhaps this story is one that you’ve not yet heard – and that you may be able to help.  We hope it may influence how you think about supporting the citizens, workers, businesses, families, and nonprofits in our state.

As schools closed, they canceled their 3-5-day programs with us – and have requested refunds. The language in our contracts with schools vary, yet many have clear language about what happens with deposits and cancellations. Despite that, public schools have been clear about their expectations of full refunds. Our desire to not alienate our school partners has resulted in us returning deposits and payments, or at best, rolling them over to next spring.

In either case, the public school system’s ledger looks better, and the nonprofit’s looks worse, significantly worse.

Collectively, we estimate that more 300 public schools have canceled programs, and $4M of nonprofit revenue is now back to Washington State Public Schools. The result? We’re laying off our educators, terminating positions, reducing work hours as our sites prepare to hibernate for the foreseeable coronavirus winter.

The organizations that form the field of environmental education are in financial freefall, and it’s not clear that we will survive to partner with schools again as things return to normal.

We ask you, today, as you do the important work of imagining how the state can best provide an economic backstop during this crisis to please consider including the nonprofits that support and partner with our public schools. Specifically, we are interested in

  1. Find a Pathway – enable both schools and the non-profit environmental education programs to prosper,
  2. Nonprofits considered part of Service Industry – If there are relief bills for the hospitality/hotel industry, we would strongly advocate that non-profits like ours be included.

Experiences in our youth shape our choices as adults. Help us continue to connect our young people to the experiences in the outdoors.

Thank you,

 

 

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