Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Crowded School Board Field, Hagan's Green Stands Out

When it comes to candidates and climate change, talking the talk matters almost as much as walking the walk. Because if candidates don't bring it up, the media won't do it for them.

That's why it was so refreshing to hear Arlington School Board candidate Karla Hagan bring up the environment at last week's school board debate in her opening statement. Sure, a cynic might say it's not like being green a risky move in Arlington, home to more bleeding hearts per capita than any community south of Cambridge. But none of the other candidates mentioned the environment even once.

Given Arlington's environmental leadership on programs like Fresh AIRE, you'd think schools would be out front on environmental issues. But I've heard many complaints from students and parents that schools didn't even recycle, though that's slowly changing.

Here's what Hagan had to say about schools and the environment in her recent Raising Kaine interview:

Meeting our Earth's environmental challenges will be one of the most critical milestones for our children's generation, and yet I am the only candidate talking about this issue. While we are doing some things right, our school system has no defined environmental curriculum or policy guidelines. I will provide the much-needed leadership to ensure that Arlington Public Schools joins Arlington County - a national leader - in its environmentally progressive policy. Schools are a civic entity that must contribute to environmental advances -- and in schools, there's an important additional component: we must teach our children by our example.

Environmentally responsible education is a part of my passion for ensuring our young people are ready for their future with an education suited for the 21st century. We must focus not just on content but also on skills that will prepare our children to solve the big environmental, energy, medical, and societal challenges they will face: skills that are so valued in the workplace, such as creativity, innovation, collaboration, and effective communication. Though full of challenges, their future will be very exciting, and I want them to be ready for it!
School Board members like Libby Garvey have pushed for more sustainability in schools, making Langston Brown and the new Washington-Lee LEED-certified green buildings. And I certainly understand that in tight budget times, it's harder to justify increased initial investments in efficiency that bring long-term budget savings.

But a driven environmentalist like Hagan could push the board to do even more, taking advantage of the boundless environmental energy of Arlington students. As a teacher friend once told me, the best way to change the behavior of parents is to send a note home with their student.

There are six well-qualified candidates running for school board, including Garvey, a longtime friend of the environment. Hagan's willingness to step out on environmental issues certainly raises her profile in a crowded field.

Cross-posted from Raising Kaine

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