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Greening the schoolyard

In the new book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, Berkeley-based environmental planner Sharon Danks looks at the methods in which landscape design, architecture, child development, and nutrition converge in the schoolyard. 

Shanti Menon, from OnEarth, interviewed her recently
. Danks' firm, Bay Tree Designs, Inc, is helping redevelop roughly thirty San Francisco schoolyards, to talk about how communities are transforming the asphalt playgrounds of the past into green spaces conducive to better learning, eating, and playing.



How have playgrounds changed since we were kids?

Playgrounds these days are influenced largely by liability concerns. Swings are disappearing, bars are getting lower, structures are becoming less challenging.

My 4-year-old recently broke her arm on a play structure meant for 2- to 5-year-olds because she found it so boring. She was walking on the outside of the bridge and sliding down the handrail and fell off. These structures are so unchallenging that kids are making up their own activities, which are often 10 times more dangerous.

$1 Million Grant Funds WSU Extension ‘Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth’ Project

Exciting news: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that Washington State University will develop and run the People's Garden School Pilot Program which will serve an estimated 2,800 students attending 70 elementary schools in Washington, New York, Iowa and Arkansas. The Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth pilot is an innovative strategy to help our nation win the future through improved K-12 education. It explores the impact of school gardens on learning and on changing student consumption patterns so they make healthier food choices.

Greg Mortenson packs ‘em in

Greg Mortenson, the author of "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools" drew a crowd of at least 4,000 to Gonzaga University's McCarthey Athletic Center — on a night when this basketball-obsessed college was playing an Elite Eight women's game right down the road.

It was exhilarating and refreshing to see so many people perfectly aware that some things are more important than sports, namely, empowering people in Pakistan and Afghanistan through education. That's what Mortenson does with his Central Asia Institute. They have built 178 schools, mostly for educating girls.

It was an inspiring night, but not necessarily because Mortenson is a dynamic and polished speaker. He's not. I would describe him more as heartfelt and sincere. He admits he's no born speaker. But that's one reason I have been so impressed with him, both in an interview I did with him last week and in Monday's GU talk.

He doesn't have any of the smooth slickness of a politician, a huckster or an evangelist. He's just a guy who thought he saw something that needed doing, and kept doing it until he got it done. And then he kept doing it after that.

If you missed the speech — maybe you were watching a certain basketball game — I would encourage you to get a copy of "Three Cups of Tea" (and after that, "Stones Into Schools"). His story is told more thoroughly there — and it's a story that may change the way you think about the world.

Here's one of his insights: Educate a boy and you educate an individual. Educate a girl and you end up educating  the whole village 

Greg Mortenson on the military

I just finished interviewing Greg Mortenson, the co-author of "Three Cups of Tea" and "Stones Into Schools." I have tremendous admiration for him and his work building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan and I have written an extensive story for Saturday's paper.

But I didn't have enough space to include all of the topics we discussed, including this fascinating one: His changing perception of America's military.

 Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

"In 'Three Cups of Tea,' I was fairly critical of the military. I said they were all laptop warriors. … But my opinion of the military has really changed. The military really gets it. …

"Because many of our troops have been on the ground three or four times, of all of our government entities, the military understands and has an awareness of respecting the elders and building relationships and listening to the people. There has been a huge learning curve."

In fact, the military sought him out as an adviser on how to effectively build relationships with the Afghan people. 

He'll be speaking at Gonzaga University on Monday at 7 p.m. Tickets available through TicketsWest.

Some writers should check their work

When processing a letter that derides teachers in the public schools, it's often tempting to publish it as is — without correcting spelling or punctuation.  This one arrived today:


I believe if you want any clue to how well the teachers union and their members are doing teaching our children all you have to do is see how many are making a passing grade in their class's, how many are dropping out of school and how many can make the grade to get into a college!!!! Enough said, we need better teachers not more money in the school system!

The ten states running out of smart people

There are several states in the U.S. that are losing the eduction race to most of the others. In the past decade, these states have declining math and reading scores, lower numbers of people with bachelor’s degrees, and comparatively fewer residents who hold white collar jobs.

Colorado, Michigan, and eight others are losing this competition to states who have residents that are better educated and who have done a better job obtaining higher quality jobs. These failing states have lost ground compared to the national average.

The recent State of the Union address, and almost any sweeping political speech or document that writes or speaks about unemployment and future competition for jobs, impresses the point that a well educated workforce–a smart workforce–has comparative advantages. Read more.

Guess what state is #4? That's right. Idaho:

In 2000, 84.7% of adults in Idaho had completed high school. By 2009, the number had dropped to 83.3%. This decrease of 1.71% is the third worst rate in the country. Idaho had the eighth worst percent difference in residents with bachelor’s degrees from 2000 to 2009, and the sixth worst percent difference in residents with advanced degrees.

Do you think anyone in the legislature is paying attention to stories like this?

H/T Christa Hazel



WA Lege Day 23: Gov v. SPI on education

OLYMPIA — Gov. Chris Gregoire made the pitch to unify the state's school systems from preschool to gradulate degrees under her office, even if it means getting rid of the state's elected school chief.

"This is not about one governor…This is about having one system," Gregoire said in supporting a bill that would allow her to appoint a cabinet-level secretary of Education and create a department that encompasses all learning prorgrams in state schools and colleges.

The current Superintendent of Public Instruction, Randy Dorn, made the pitch to keep an elected education leader.  "We need to do more. But I won't sit here and say the system is broke."

The Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee is considering several bills that would make major changes in school systems, including Gregoire's plan to consolidate all education under a gubernatorial appointee, and a constitutional amendment that would eliminate the office of SPI.

Some members of the Senate panel seemed critical of Gregoire's plan, wondering if it would create another mega agency like the Department of Social and Health Services. Not so, the governor said; DSHS has about 18,000 people, the education department she's proposing would have about 700.

Other members were critical of the current system. People complain the SPI's office "is like a dinosaur that can't be moved," Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines said, while the dropout rates get worse and the achievement gap broadens.

Things need to be fixed, Dorn conceded, but the Legislature needs to accept some of the responsibility for the current problems. "We are cutting education," he said.

But it's not solely about money, Chairwoman Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, countered. The state has spent more on various programs over the years, but "there are many pieces that are still broken."

Most speakers told the panel that some reform was necessary. But they disagreed sharply whether putting all education systems in one office, led by a governor's appointee, was the right reform.

The state needs the independent voice that a separately elected education official provides, Marie Sullivan of the state's association of school directors said. A member of the governor's cabinet can't speak against the governor's budget if he or she doesn't think it's adequate for education, Sullivan said.

But Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, who sponsored the proposed constitutional amendment to eliminate the office, said the governor is recognizable in a way the education superintendent is not; putting the governor in charge of education would create a tool needed to improve it.

Liv Finne of the Washington Policy Center said the governor needs the authority to make changes and by appointing the person in charge of all the state's education systems, voters "can better hold her accountable for improving education."

Gregoire proposes education czar

Gov. Chris Gregoire explains proposals for education and higher education at a press conference Wednesday.

OLYMPIA — All of Washington's education systems and programs, from preschool through graduate degrees at universities, should be working together and overseen by a single office, Gov. Chris Gregoire said Wednesday.

Gregoire proposed creating the cabinet position of Secretary of Education — appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature — and placing responsibility for the many “silos” of education at all age levels into that office. That would include the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, a constitutionally mandated official, elected by voters every four years, just as the governor is.

The state could eliminate the elective position, or keep it and have the OSPI report to the Education Secretary, Gregoire said at a morning press conference. “I'm comfortable either way.”

The current occupant of that office, Randy Dorn, is not comfortable with the idea. Wednesday afternoon he suggested it was a power grab by the governor…

How does one educate for success?

Good morning, Netizens…

Despite having attended several universities and colleges, I have never particularly been a strong advocate of traditional education as taught in our public schools today. Instead of today’s students being encouraged and aided to learn at their own levels and speed, our system appears to attempt to teach them how to pass the standardized testing programs. Perhaps even worse, although we have a plethora of new-and-improved testing programs, given our dismal teacher-to-student ratios in the classrooms, we are unable to truly teach children effectively.

Then we compound the errors of the educational system with a societal system of televised entertainment disguised as so-called education. In my day we had kids television fare, such as Captain Kangaroo and other shows that brought education to kids in unorthodox ways, but that had learning content. I’ve looked at television shows that target kids today, and I find very few such educational opportunities. Kids television today contains more fluff, more targeted advertising and less instruction.

I cannot help but recall a true story I related to a friend the other day, about my own personal learning experiences. I was a voracious reader from grade school. By the time I entered High School, I had already read most of the limited fictional works in the high school library, and had already begun reading non-fiction. The net result, unfortunately, was that I began ignoring some of the traditional teaching materials used by our school, relying instead upon a stack of paperback books in my locker I had purchased from the Scholastic Book Club of the time. By my Junior year in high school, I had my own library, and at least had already read the required reading list for college level.

My granddaughters today, by comparison, are forced to read as part of their school curriculum, but do not do so by choice, and in my opinion, were it not for the ongoing home-based education efforts that our family have put into place, I seriously doubt they would achieve success.

I concur with Horsey. Dismal education is no substitute for a hunger for learning.


Discontent in Idaho

As Idaho voters make clear their displeasure with cuts to public education spending, the men running to lead the state’s schools for the next four years are campaigning in relative obscurity.

A poll of 625 people likely to vote in the Nov. 2 election shows that 56 percent think per-pupil spending on K-12 public education is too low. The poll, conducted by The Spokesman-Review and six other daily Idaho newspapers, also shows that 23 percent of voters remain undecided about the race for superintendent of public instruction, possibly because some don’t know who’s running.

While GOP incumbent Tom Luna leads Democratic challenger Stan Olson 47 percent to 30 percent, the poll shows that 18 percent of respondents don’t recognize Luna’s name – giving him by far the lowest name recognition of any incumbent running in a statewide race this year. Olson, the just-retired Boise School District superintendent, is unknown to 53 percent of poll respondents. Full story. Ben Botkin, Times News

Are you happy with public education in Idaho?

IFF: School Books Full Of Propaganda

Recent news that Texas education leaders have overhauled textbook requirements has alarmed some educators and politicians. But the news is frightening only if you’re under the false impression that textbooks our kids use are anything close to accurate today. Of course, that’s not the case. Not by a long short. Our children are being fed a steady diet of statist propaganda, and from that, it is little wonder why our country has veered so far to the Left. The design is in the coursework and intentional indoctrination of our children/Wayne Hoffman, Idaho Freedom Foundation. More here.

Question: Do you think your children’s textbooks are an accurate reflection of the nation’s history and times? Or are they full of political propaganda, as Wayne Hoffman contends?

State falling short

More details will be forthcoming, but Associated Press just reported that a judge ruled today the state of Washington is not meeting its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education.  That may not surprise anyone, but the big question will be how the state will respond.  In the 1970s another judge made the same ruling, one outcome of which was that local property taxes went down significantly.  In a meeting with the editorial board yesterday, representatives of the state Board of Education noted that more than $2 billion in local special levy money now goes to pay for schools and much of what that money provides is unarguably part of basic education. As in the ‘70s, local taxpayers are paying extra to underwrite what is the state’s paramount constitutional responsibility.  Not likely that we’ll see the state step in and relieve that local tax burden anytime soon, not with the economic difficulties that already challenge Olympia. But it will be fascinating to see how (or if) they respond to this court ruling in a way that lasts.  Obviously the 1970s fix didn’t.

Generation-E: Washington state rocks!

“The Pacific Northwest - greenwashing on campuses since 2009.”
OK - that was harsh.  But a recent article in The Seattle Times spent a good amount of time hyping up local universities and their efforts to “woo” students by touting their “green cred”.  But upon deeper reading, it became pretty evident that universities in Washington state are making it happen.  At the University of Washington, for instance, one of the few departments expanding during a time of budget cuts is the fledgling College of the Environment.  And then there are recent headlines like these: “Western Washington University Students Sweep Awards at Environmental Competition”. “Princeton Review Chooses The Evergreen State College for Its ‘Green Rating Honor Roll’”, and “Seattle University is the greenest green campus in Washington state.”
If we’ve learned anything over the last 20 months or so, it’s that the youth voice and youth perspective is growing in both volume and effectiveness.  For local universities to be able to lure impressionable minds in with greenwashing-like goodies, then give them the tools and opportunity to craft an eco conscious, they are in the position and have the responsiblity to create the change we wall want to see in this world.  Learn more about what local universities are doing HERE. 

So you might have got to this point and said to yourself, “but what about this side of the state?”  Good news!  Washington State University was just recently named as one of the top ten clean-tech universities in the United States.  In a post on WattHead last week, the importance of clean tech was explained; “Universities and colleges have a critical role to play in accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy and reclaiming U.S. competitiveness in the global clean-tech race. Universities perform 54 percent of the nation’s basic research, a fundamental building block of the technological innovation we need to spark the clean energy revolution. Universities and colleges are the training ground for the next generation of scientists, engineers, teachers, and leaders in government and industry. And universities are the launching ground for numerous entrepreneurial ventures to bring those innovations to the marketplace.”

Here’s what helped land WSU at #10: With legacy expertise in agriculture, power and applied engineering, WSU’s Clean Technology program is rapidly growing in the cleantech-centric Pacific Northwest. Plant science is the engine behind the opening last year of the Bioproducts Science and Engineering Laboratory, Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the recently funded Washington State Algae Alliance. One of the main objectives is the commercialization of aviation biofuels with partner Boeing Commercial Airlines. Notable cleantech spinouts: GoNano, Ajuga Biosciences, BioGasol, Schweitzer Engineering Labs, and Integrated Engineering Solutions.
See the rest of the rankings HERE. 


‘Transformational’ education strategy unveiled

Gov. Butch Otter and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna joined business leaders and others at a press conference today to announce a new, broad education strategy for the state, focusing on getting more Idaho kids to go on to post-secondary education, high standards and accountability in public schools, and more. The Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence, a group of about 70 CEOs and other business people from throughout the state, brought together education stakeholders in an “Education Alliance” to develop the strategy, dubbed a “transformational education agenda.” “You know you’re on the right track when the teachers and the administrators, the school boards and the parents, the public sector and private industry all come together to focus their collective wisdom, experience and passion on an issue,” Otter said. “I’m happy to be able to facilitate and encourage this effort to create a world-class education system that will enable our students to compete in the global marketplace of ideas.” Otter said the state Board of Education will work with the alliance to try to implement the strategy; you can read the alliance’s full announcement here.

Tastes like home

Montana schoolchildren are locavores—- and they don’t even know it.

As an addendum to our food reform post, check out the great work Missoula County Public Schools are doing to connect kids to organics, serving 43,000 pounds of local food and sauces to Missoula schoolchildren last year. They’ve been drawing national attention as part of the Farm To Schools program, and MCPS Food and Nutrition Services now has a documentary to tell how nutritious and delicious food is prepared for Missoula students.

Green report card

In keeping with our back to school theme for the week, we want to re-direct readers to the Sierra magazine list of “the most-eco-enlightened U.S. colleges” because two-thirds of applicants say a school’s green record would influence their enrollment decision. On the list, University of Washington landed at number two for focusing on local, organic food services and LEED Silver standard for new campus buildings; Evergreen State College has a fleet of electric vehicles and students rallied together for a clean-energy fee, hoping to become waste-free and carbon neutral by 2020. Go here, to read the full report for profiles of 300 schools.

The Post-Obama education talks…

Good morning, Netizens…

O Lord spare us from the idiots we may become through being narrow-minded and ignorant! At least that is what cartoonist David Horsey seems to be saying this morning as we revisit one of his American cartoon families after the kids watched President Obama speaking to them in school yesterday.

If we cannot or will not heed President Obama’s words to our kids yesterday, if the kids are unwilling or unable to heed his words, we are doomed sure as the dickens to raising a generation of idiots.

After a thorough and careful review of his speech yesterday, ie., study hard and go to college, is there any cogent reason kids shouldn’t heed his words? Did anyone see or hear where President Obama tried to sell the kids on Socialist or Communist theories? One of America’s greatest resources upon which our very futures depend so heavily, upon which our very futures rely is that of our PEOPLE in the future.

In short, our kids are our futures. Without critical thinking, and good reading, math and history skills, we are doomed.


Local educator selected executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education

Continuing our ongoing look at education in relation to environmental, sustainable, and social justice issues, we’re pleased to announce that a local educator has just been named the new executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. Paul Rowland, dean of the University of Idaho College of Education, will leave his post at the U of I at the end of July to take up his new appointment on August 1.

In a statement released by the University, Rowland said, “I have been very happy with my time at the University of Idaho and am extremely proud of the work we’ve accomplished in the College of Education. But the AASHE executive directorship offers to me the opportunity of a lifetime and brings me full-circle to my early work as an environmental educator, which is a long-held passion.”

AASHE is an association of colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada that promotes sustainability in all sectors of higher education – from governance and operations to curriculum and outreach – through education, communication, research and professional development.

According to a post found on The Chronicles of Higher Education blog, AASHE has identified a number of key goals for the next several years, including (1) supporting climate action planning, (2) the release of STARS (the Sustainability, Tracking, Assessment and Rating System for higher education), (3) an electronic resource center, and (4) integrating sustainability into college university curricula. As we get more interested and involved in areas of education and sustainability, we hope to report news of progress due to Rowland’s appointment.

Follow up to Generation-E

Last week we delved into the topic of education and the environment.  Though we didn’t conclude this in the particular piece we wrote, we’ve since come to the realization that we deeply respect those dedicated folks out there who are working towards bringing environmental awareness into the classroom.  Ironically, the same day we ran our story, the brilliant Andrew Revkin at The New York Times ran a story about a conversation he had with students at Ohio University about communication and the environment.

The Cougar dilemma

From Cougar country, Washington Sate University said it “will reinstate the original plan for distribution of its Common Reading book, ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma,’ as a result of a private contribution to support the program.” Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer and WSU alumnus, funded the resolution and will also pay for author Michael Pollan to speak on campus.

In case you missed it last week, the president at WSU canceled a “common-reading” for incoming freshmen of Pollan’s bestselling “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” citing budgetary constraints. This reasoning was challenged by the fact the school already purchased 4,000 copies of the book, and people associated with the common reading program declined interviews. Now, everybody says the school bowed to political pressure from agribusiness. The Spokesman-Review reported as much on the culprit: “That political pressure apparently was brought to bear by a member of the board of regents, Harold Cochran, who disapproved of the author’s characterization of agribusiness. Cochran owns and operates a 5,500-acre farm near Walla Walla, is a founding stockholder in the Bank of the West in Walla Walla and is a member of the Washington Association of Wheat Growers.”

We’re glad they didn’t get away with this while WSU’s academic integrity has been cheapened. Major props to Marler for stepping up.


With another school year just ending, or ending soon, it doesn’t seem like the most advantageous time to discuss education trends. But we’d be crazy to not take advantage of the opportunity to discuss something we feel will be a very large issue in the near future - how to teach the future generation about environmental issues and sustainability.

There will undoubtedly be, if not already, a debate about how to teach climate change and global warming in schools - think Scopes Monkey Trial.  As we all know from living in Spokane, there are a lot of people who just won’t agree that climate change is an issue. And apparently (because councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin made us aware), there are a lot of scientists who disagree with the scientific opinion on global warming
Unfortunately, even if school teachers and administrators found a way to present the facts in a balanced, two-sided manner - there would be someone, somewhere, with very strong convictions of the opposite who would use the opportunity to create chaos.  Call us pessimists, but we’ve been around long enough to know what happens when you mix emotions, science, and partisan politics.
And then there’s this - we’re probably too late in teaching about prevention anyways.     Combine global growth, resources demand, and decades of indolence and most believe that we’re too late.  So instead of wasting school time on theories and technologies about how to combat global warming, we should be more forward thinking. 
Which leaves us with teaching about tolerance and adaptation.  How will we live in a time much different than generations before, on a planet drastically altered?  How will we survive with declined resources, with less food, less water? 
It presents opportunities for new ideas, fresh innovation, and world-changing technologies - opportunities that must be seized by a well educated, ambitious, and concerned population.

ITHO: Nonini Enjoys Teacher Pain

No Idaho teacher will be surprised by Nonini’s bald expression of resentment toward “those people” in the classroom. It helps explain the motivation behind much of what he has done as a legislator, and probably helps explain why Speaker Lawerence Denney appointed him to head the Education Committee. When speakers support the state’s public school system, they put education supporters in charge of that committee. When they don’t, they don’t/Jim Fisher, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Do you agree with opinionator Fisher that House GOP leadership appointed Nonini to chair the Education Committee because he’s against public education?

WEA president blasts Legislature

Via Publicola, here is the letter WEA President Mary Lindquist sent out to teachers after the Senate adopted a reform bill.


This bill is a travesty and an insult to the education profession. The groups behind it are vested interests masquerading as concerned citizens who care for children. Yet they’re denigrating and dismissing those of us who actually educate our state’s children!

Contrary to what you may hear or read, HB 2261 is a bogus education “reform” bill that blames educators instead of focusing on the REAL problem facing our schools: The nearly $2 billion in cuts to K-12 and higher education.”

So parents, the PTA and League of Education voters are among the “vested interests” faking their interest in the education of children. Interesting take.


UPDATE: My view on the matter is here.


Charity-A-Day: Education

As you may have seen in the Our Kids; Our Business section of today’s Spokesman-Review,  kicking off another week of charity-focus here at the Vox Box! We’ve investigated a huge range of topics; everything from Health, Animal Shelters, Food Banks, and more. Get ready and geared up for week two of ‘Charity-A-Day’!  Today we’ll tackle a big one: Education! (Yeah…the mention of that whole ‘school’ things usually inspires some groans and whining, but hold on - this is the good stuff…)

“Start with Trust”
The Better Busines Bureau is making education their main business with the BBB Education Foundation.  Found in Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana, the BBB works toward their goal to “promote and foster ethical relationships within our community” by inviting high school sophomores to discuss ethics and preparing our generation for what lies ahead. 

“…Raising a high bar for all students benefits all students.”
That’s the core belief of Seattle-based education charity, Alliance for Education.  Raising capital, creating challenging courses, and inspiring students within Washington, are just a few of the things Alliance does to “champion change and help drive effective strategies that will increase student achievement.” The Alliance for Education also rewards teachers: Two scholarship-awards are given out to remarkable educators and one award is granted to a notable principal. You can help this unique charity by donation or by volunteering at their annual October fundraising-breakfast…(and yes - by volunteering you get part of the breakfast…yummm, helping students can be delicious!)

“…Prepare students from underserved communities for success in universities.”
Accra, Mamprobi, Chorkor, and Dansoman: These are the areas of Ghana, West Africa that are being helped by the Darkwa Foundation.  With a branch in Bellevue, WA, Darkwa’s goal is to promote education in nurseries, pre-school’s, kindergartens, Middle schools, and primary school’s in Ghana - thus limiting poverty. The charity accepts donations as well as ‘In-Kind’ gifts, such as text books, curriculum guides, computers, and toys all to ”enable [the kids] to contribute to the development of their own country.”

Calling all volunteers: Clean Energy Corps



The House voted to create Clean Energy Corps, part of a larger bill to dramatically expand volunteer national service with 175,000 new positions. President Obama issued a statement on the bill which he pushed for: “We know that government alone is not the answer to the challenges we face. It will take all of us taking our share of responsibility. And while government can provide the opportunities to give back to our communities, as I hope it will through this legislation, it is up to each and every citizen to seize those opportunities. It is up to every one of us to do his or her small part to make the world a better place.”

But this is one more indication of energy in the right place. Finally, we are seeing the convergence of environmental and social issues in America. Clean Energy Corps. Wow. All the cool kids will be doing it. A chance to give back to the community, a chance to educate the public.

Passed in the same building where lawmakers reacted to the American International Group scandal yesterday, House Education and Labor Committee chairman George Miller commented, “one measure speaks to the immorality of America, and one speaks to the morality of America.” We live in interesting times. Read HERE.

Another Green Monday

“There has never been a month —- not at least since the heady days of the early 1970s —- when environmental policy has moved so dramatically towards a sustainable future. The challenge now is to keep up the pace.” That optimism came from Carl Pope, the former Executive Director of the Sierra Club, last Thursday, examining the momentum of positive environmental **news since he announced he was stepping down, which, coincidentally, was three days after January 20th. (Read: A very green President.) History is happening quickly; there’s little time to look back yet comparisons to the early 1970’s are not coincidental either. DTE has a mind-blowing project to evoke the Expo ‘74 Spokane theme, “Celebrating a Fresh, New Environment” on the horizon. More on this later, but for now, there’s no plans on slowing down here Mr. Pope.

“No mom, dumpster diving really does count for credits.” Some 200 University of Idaho students recently emptied and sorted through the garbage from ten of their campus garbage bins as part of their enrollment in the “Field Activities in Environmental Science 102” course which, under the direction of Tom Nagawiecki, a master’s student in Environmental Science, was part of a waste characterization study. According to a recent U of I press release that discussed the results, “thirty-eight percent of what individuals throw away can be recycled using the current University of Idaho recycling programs, and an additional 30 percent of what is thrown away can be composted.” Read more of the press release HERE, and for the results, view this Excel file.

Who is the greenest of them all? This article would have been timely had we had put it on last Monday’s President’s Day AGM, however, it is still interesting to consider – because who doesn’t like lists. Bill Chameides of the National Academy of Sciences recently wrote about the greenest presidents of all time, and called for President Obama to, “distinguish himself from Democratic administrations that promised a lot but delivered little on the environment.” The list is fascinating, if for only the fact that it gives validation to DTE’s long-held belief that despite all of President Nixon’s mistakes, his environmental record is one to be honored. Read more HERE.


Up against a deadline without all of the information. That’s how county commissioner Bonnie Mager described the county commissioner’s vote to allow CH2M Hill Constructors Inc. to begin construction on the wastewater treatment facility near Freya and Boone. “I guess I’m just disturbed that once again we find ourselves in a position to be shoved up against a deadline without all the information to make a really informed decision,” she said in The Spokesman-Review on Saturday. “My main concern … is still that we don’t build a plant that we will have to mothball even for a short period of time because we don’t have a place to discharge.” If you’ll recall – the discharge proposals still haven’t met EPA standards meaning this plant could get built before anyone knows how water will be discharged and at what cost and effect. Read more from the Spokesman HERE and go back through our archives to catch up on this story.

The cost of climate change action versus doing nothing.  A recent study by the University of Oregon’s Climate Leadership Initiative and ECONorthwest predicts that the cost to the state of Washington for doing nothing to fight climate change would equal out to about $1,250 annually per household come 2020. In a similar study by the Colorado-based Western Business Roundtable, it was predicted that if Western states enacted the Western Climate Initiative that it would cost households approximately $2,300 annually by 2020. It’s confusing to consider these two studies side by side, and it’s frustrating that talks of climate change have no taken on the lingo used by Wall Street execs, but in this economic climate, it might be the only way that citizens and bureaucrats can make sense of it all. As for making sense of these conflicting reports, The Oregonian did a wonderful job of that recently. Read more HERE.

CDA To Open Kindercenter @ Hayden

Item: CdA district plans Kindercenter: School in Hayden Lake aims to ease crowding/Sara Leaming, SR

More Info: Amanda Crowder showed up at Ramsey Elementary School on Wednesday night admittedly “a little freaked out.” Like the parents of about 300 incoming kindergarten students in the Coeur d’Alene School District, Crowder recently learned her son, Braeden, will attend a kindergarten center in the fall, instead of his neighborhood school.

Question: Do you support the concept of a Kindercenter at the old Hayden Elementary School for the Coeur d’Alene School District?

Nonini Loses Cool With Lt. Gov. Little

Legislators are shoving for position as Gov. Butch Otter takes another step toward reshaping the State Board of Education with his fourth appointment to the eight-member board. Last week, a confrontation between House Education Committee Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, and Lt. Gov. Brad Little underscored the stakes as lawmakers jockey for their favorites. Nonini has a favorite for the job and let Little know. The appointment is the first major post to be vetted by Little since he took office last month. Otter assigned Little to review candidates for jobs that require Senate confirmation before Otter makes his nominations. But Nonini made his point to the even-tempered Little in such a loud voice that word of the incident quickly spread through legislative circles. “There was an issue,” Little confirmed. “He was pretty exercised and was talking about holding up the governor’s state board package”/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Do you support any of Nonini’s choices to replace Sue Thilo on the state Board of Education — Lorna Finman/Post Falls, president of LCF Enterprises; Jim Faucher, a retired hospital VP, and Fred Ostermeyer, a former NIC board chairman?

Nonini: Santa Obama Saves Idaho Ed

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, now says his controversial bills to make permanent cuts in laws governing school funding and teacher contracts may not be needed at all, what with big money coming Idaho’s way from the federal stimulus package. “It looks like Idaho could be in line for $160 million and some of that money could be available as soon as next week,” Nonini said. Some of the federal money is designed specifically “so teachers don’t get cuts in salary, teachers don’t get laid off and programs don’t get cut,” Nonini said. “We all thought it would be best to just not rush into the hearings”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Earlier: Plan anticipates $110M in school cuts

H/T: Bob

Nonini Goes After Idaho Schools

Rep. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, the House Education Committee chairman, proposed two far-ranging bills this morning to make permanent changes in state law to allow cuts in Idaho’s public school funding. Among them: No state funding for field trips, including academic outings, ever again. All school district contracts with staff would expire at the end of every fiscal year, and no terms or conditions could carry over beyond that. Idaho would repeal the law that requires no reduction in salary or contract days for experienced teachers. School districts could impose reductions in force regardless of contract terms/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Do you support Rep. Bob Nonini’s proposals?