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  • Brady Woodhouse

Sunrise Hub Lobbies State Board of Education to Pass Green New Deal For Schools

SWW Sunrise Hub members gather for a group photo at the SBOE / Credits: Sofia Smith


Following a determined campaign by the School Without Walls Sunrise Hub, the D.C. State Board of Education (SBOE) passed the Green New Deal for Schools on Jan. 17. DCPS became the second school district in the nation to pass the legislation, which positions schools to take action against the climate crisis. 


The SWW Sunrise Hub, led by students Anna Mayer (‘25) and Zoe Fisher (‘25), drove the effort to advocate for the bill (Editors’ note: both Mayer and Fisher write for The Rookery). The two club leaders had long been passionate about addressing the climate crisis. Mayer described the climate crisis as “incredibly daunting with the state of the country.” However, she did not feel like her efforts to make change were effective. Fisher said, “I was reposting climate change posts on Instagram and I became a vegetarian, but nothing was going to change.” However, upon learning about the Sunrise Movement, they realized they weren’t alone in their desire to make change. 


The Sunrise Movement is a nonprofit organization that connects youth activists nationwide through hubs on a school and community level. This network works to push local and national political policies that combat climate change. Fisher and Mayer saw this movement and knew that starting a hub at Walls would help make a tangible difference within the D.C. community. 


The SWW Sunrise Hub started in the spring of 2022, but it “really took off” in the fall, Fisher said. After finding a sponsor, Ms. Blessing, the hub began its work and education. The hub taught students about climate crisis legislation, shared lesson plans for climate education, and encouraged members to network with other schools in order to collectively demand change. 


This year, the hub has focused on passing the Green New Deal for Schools through the SBOE, working with schools in every ward.


In the past few months, the Sunrise Hub at Walls has attended and testified at three public SBOE meetings and developed relationships with Board members, who were more than willing to aid young activists. The hub’s relationships with specific members was essential to presenting the Green New Deal to the full SBOE. Testifying at each meeting, Mayer and Fisher promised to double the attendance of students in support at the next meeting. The representatives joked that they had over-delivered at the meeting that saw the Green New Deal for Schools approved. Seventy-eight students, teachers, and community members from every corner of D.C. were in attendance, and proud to stand for the ideals of the legislation. 


“Watching students become so passionate and our school and city mobilizing to make real change was the most exciting part,” Fisher said. The hub collaborated with the SWW Green Team as well as other Green Teams and Sunrise hubs at schools like Basis DC, Jackson-Reed. Connecting students in schools from across the city was essential to demonstrating strong support for the legislation to the Board. 


 Students in the hub improved their networking and legislative writing skills through this process, and saw how those resources could positively impact their communities. “We got to work with legislation writing which I’d never done before,” Mayer said.


To raise awareness for their bill, the pair reached out to many news outlets. Eventually, the local news network Fox 5 featured them in an interview, a segment of which is posted on the hub’s Instagram account, @sunrisemvmntsww. With reporters from prestigious news outlets including the Washington Post and Washington Informer in attendance at the SBOE meeting that decided the outcome of the resolution, the hub has garnered mass support for their cause. In the interview with Fox 5, the leaders gave a brief explanation of the demands of the Green New Deal for Schools. 


“The Green New Deal for Schools specifically with D.C. was written by students in D.C. public schools,” Fisher said in the interview. The Green New Deal for Schools has five demands, according to Fisher. The demands include more sustainable, safe, and clean infrastructure. This would also mean that future renovation projects and buildings will move towards renewable energy. The deal also demands pathways to green jobs and a climate-conscious curriculum in D.C. classrooms. This is aimed to better prepare the next generation to combat the climate crisis. The deal also demands locally-sourced and healthy lunches, while keeping them free for students. Finally, the resolution demands more comprehensive disaster plans, especially regarding natural disasters enhanced by climate change. 


At the SBOE public meeting on Jan. 17, Fisher and Mayer gave their final testimonies that reflected the hard work that the hub has put into passing this legislation. The two no longer had to convince the board of the deal, and instead celebrated that they already received the support that would pass the legislation. “Thank you for listening and supporting us these past few months, tonight, and beyond as we turn this resolution into action!” Fisher closed her testimony. The voting proceeded with their testimonies, and the board passed the Green New Deal for Schools unanimously.

 

With the Green New Deal for Schools passed, the hub said that there remains a long road to full implementation and effective change. “We have to sit in on budget meetings for the district to find out how the demands can fit within [the budget],” Fisher explained. The hub will also have to work with more than just the SBOE, as several of the demands fall under the jurisdiction of other D.C. agencies. For example, only the Department of General Services has the ability to realize the demands for sustainable infrastructure, and the integration of climate curriculums in schools would have to pass through the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. 


Despite those challenges, leaders and members of the Sunrise Movement Hub at SWW are confident that D.C. legislators will bring the demands outlined in the Green New Deal for Schools into full effect, given the connections that the hub has established with D.C. officials. “We will not stop working until every demand is implemented into every DCPS school,” Fisher said in her testimony. 


Beyond that, the hub believes that the power of a school district in the nation’s capital passing this legislation is incomparable, and may set off a chain reaction of other districts adopting similar deals. 


The SWW Sunrise Hub meets on Tuesday mornings at 8:15 in room 322.

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