5 Steps to Passing a School Board Climate Action Resolution
Schools for Climate Action
Assemble a Climate Action Team
Start with a team. It does not have to be a big team----3 to 8 people should do. Ideally, your team will have a mix of the following stakeholders:
- Students or youth who attend school in the district.
- We feel it is important to have 30% to 50% of your core team be youth for three main reasons:
- Empowering young people to hold elected leaders accountable for speaking up about climate justice and acting on climate change provides young people with a skill their generation desperately needs. Engaging youth in this process is just as important as the end goal of getting resolutions passed. Not including young people in this work would be a huge missed opportunity.
- Young people have a unique perspective that should influence our work. They are the ones most harmed by climate inaction, so we need to make sure their voices are included and amplified.
- Young people are actually more effective advocates on this issue. School board members, regardless of their views on climate action, like and support kids. School board members commit significant amounts of time and take on a significant amount of responsibility with a goal of nurturing and supporting young people. Having young people on your team automatically lends you authority with school boards.
- Teachers, school staff, or administrators in the district
- Staff members are important because their professional and social networks include district personnel and school board members. In addition, they understand school district mission, values, personalities and culture, so they will be able advise you on the most efficient approaches and the language which will resonate best with existing school district culture/public discourse.
- Realistically, teachers will be the easiest school staff to get to join your team. Administrators are incredibly busy and it’s more complicated for them to join something “political”.
- Parents, grandparents, family members who have students in the district.
- Constituents and other people living in the school district.
Other thoughts on making a Climate Action Team:
- Consider using existing social networks to form your core team. Get friends, colleagues, and family members involved. This makes scheduling easier and your team starts with a pre-existing relationship and commitment to one another.
- If you have any connections with school board members, you can reach out to them early, but I would not expect school board members to become a core member of the Climate Action Team. School board members are already juggling so many responsibilities. You will want to reserve the time and focus of supportive school board members for guiding resolutions through the board. The Climate Action Team can do the legwork.
- One way to recruit potential Climate Action Team members would be to send a short email blast out to your networks. Such as:
Hello Friends and Family,
I want to join a nationwide effort to build public will to act on climate. I just learned about a group helping to set up volunteer, grassroots Climate Action Teams to work with their local school districts to pass Climate Action resolutions. Anyone interested in joining me? Here are some documents and a petition you can sign to get more information.
- to share these documents:
(1) the Schools for Climate Action petition
(2) Resources for
Meet and Make a Plan
Once you have assembled your climate action team, have an initial 1.5 to 2 hour meeting to make a plan.
Here is a possible agenda:
- Intros, check-in
- What draws you to this work? Get a clear visual image
- Goal of the Climate Action Team
- Recommended Goal: To engage youth and adult community members to empower your local school board to speak up for climate action by passing Climate Action resolutions which contain the following elements:
- Soft Asks:
- Declare climate change a children’s issue
- Endorse carbon pricing (such as carbon fee and dividend) at state and national levels
- Semi-Soft Ask:
- School creates a (volunteer) committee to make a Climate Action Plan lowering school district GhG emissions.
- This committee should research and investigate a laundry list of options such as:
- Social Networks Survey
- Your first step is to identify who your school board members are. Most school boards in California consist of 5 members. You can find their names and often their district email addresses on your school district’s website. Here is is an example for Petaluma Unified School District.
- Do a survey of your core team to see if anyone knows any board members first hand. If none of you do, then look for second degree connections. If you know someone who knows and has a good relationship with a school board member, you should ask them to do an electronic introduction. If that doesn’t seem feasible, than ask permission. . .
- Note on overlapping school districts: In many places in California there are separate elementary and high school districts. For example, in western Sonoma County we have the West County Unified High School District which has 3 high schools and a charter middle school in Forestville and Sebastopol. Within the boundaries of this one district there are also 4-5 elementary and middle school districts. Finally, the WCUHSD is also just a section of the larger Santa Rosa Junior College district. All of these school boards are publically elected and can pass climate action resolutions.
- A note about school districts (this applies to California school districts. I have no idea how it works in other states. As our campaign grows, it would be great if people in other states write up similar information for their states).
- Board Member Outreach
- School emails versus personal emails
- Polite, persistent
- Continuing Learning/Laser Talks
- Citizens’ Climate Lobby has incredible YouTube training resources. Their basic Climate Advocate Training really explains the CCL approach. Even if you are not a member of CCL, we highly encourage you to adopt the CCL approach when working on the Schools for Climate Action which is based on
- CCL's Climate Advocate Training, Part I (27 minutes)
- CCL's Climate Advocate Training, Part II (37 minutes)
- Other Details:
- Find out when your school board meets. Most school districts have a tab on their homepage for information about their school boards.
- The Brown Act: This is a wonderful law to ensure transparency in publicly elected officials. A school board member is only allowed to discuss matters that may come before the board with one other member outside of an official, publicly announced board meeting. However, you will want to consider Brown Act implications when you plan your strategy.
- Start with the “lowest hanging fruit”. In other words, the first board member your team meets with should be the one you think will be most enthusiastic. This is your school board “champion”. Follow your “champion’s” instincts on resolution word and strategy.
- They should be able to tell you who else on the board will be receptive to your proposal. You don’t want your most school board member “champion” meeting with other enthusiastic board members. Instead, you want your most enthusiastic school board member to meet with a school board member who is only a “maybe”.
- Calendar next Team Meeting
- Review Commitments
- Google Forms
- Group Google Folder
- Agenda and Minutes
- Contact Spreadsheet
- Google Calendar
Take pictures! Imagine if this instruction manual had a series of pictures showing us in action! If keep on forgetting to photodocument meetings. Establish this norm early on. It will help maximize your ability to build public will.
Even before your first meeting, encourage team members to start learning about carbon pricing and climate advocacy strategies with these resources:
However, you do not want team members to be scared off with too much homework! There is an overwhelming amount of information about carbon pricing and climate advocacy. It is not so important to read it all, but rather to build in research and learning into your individual and team cycle.
Reach Out and Build Support
- Figure out if you have a school board champion.
- Invite others from outside the core team to join you in your engagement/lobbying meetings.
- Try to always have at least one youth attending all engagement/lobbying meetings.
Bring Resolution to the School Board
Developing the Resolution:
- Public Comments: You can make a public comment at most school board meetings during the very beginning of the school board meetings. In bigger districts, you may need to show up 5 or 10 minutes early and fill out a “comment card”.
- Agenda Items/Resolutions
- Brown Act Considerations
Celebrate, Disseminate, Follow-Up
- Show up to the school board meeting with festive, celebratory signs and banners.
- Alert the press. This is a joyful event.
- Capture energy and enthusiasm of the moment to feed virtuous cycle of building further public and political will to act on climate change.
- Reflect and plan as a team.
- You have accomplished your main goal. Be sure to savor and celebrate the moment. Be present and lock in how it feels. Hopefully this taste of success will energize you for more climate advocacy in the future. However, it is also good to provide a clear end-point for the project.
- Before you end, however, please magnify the power of your work by telling your story and sharing your school boards’ climate action as widely and as high as your can. See the list below. Handwritten notes from kids with paper copies of the resolution can energize politicians. But it does not have to be
- One of the primary goals for passing school district Climate Action Resolutions is to create the social norm or expectation that everyone at every level should feel empowered to speak out and call for action on climate change. We want to create an echo chamber in which the idea of pricing carbon is everywhere---in the water, in the white noise, in the background scenery. It should almost be instinctual. By sharing your school board’s Climate Action Resolution widely, you create a model, a precedent, and an expectation that others can do the same. Disseminate:
- CCL and PutaPriceOnIt networks
- Public Officials and Agencies
- City government
- Resource Conservation Districts, Health Care Districts, Vector Control Districts, Recreation Districts (any public agency remotely related to climate change and its impacts)
- Neighboring school districts---school boards and superintendents
- County Office of Education
- California State School Board
- California State Superintendent of Schools
- Californa State Legislator
- California State Senate
- Members of Congress (Representative and 2 Senators)
- EPA Administrator
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Energy
- President of the United States
- House Majority Leader
- Senate Majority Leader
- Bi-Partisan Climate Solutions Caucus
- UN Agencies
 I put political in quotes because this is an organizing effort so in many ways it is political. However, the politicization of climate change has been a major cause of our society’s inaction on it. We should avoid associating climate change with the idea of politics as much as possible. Climate change is primarily is a socio-ecological phenomenon with significant human rights, health, economic, educational, political, and moral implications.