The Coal Education Program
Support our efforts to end Illinois’ Coal Curriculum program by signing our petition online.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO) has a Coal Education Program in place, funded by Illinois taxpayers. The program provides teachers with free resource materials for a curriculum emphasizing how great coal is. Students from Kindergarten to High School are involved in this curriculum. The program aims to put coal in the most favorable light possible. The program also hosts an all expense paid conference for teachers to tour coal mines and plants and learn about how beneficial they are. The coal education program solely shows the positive aspects of coal while completely neglecting or refuting any negative effects of coal mining or burning.
Coal mining became a significant part of the economy of Illinois in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s. It remained a valued production of the state until the passing of the Clean Air Act 40 years ago. The act called for much lower levels of sulfur in the air. Illinois coal has high sulfur content and was rendered useless. Recently, however, many ‘clean coal’ technologies have been springing up. There are new ways to wash coal to rid it of sulfur. Scrubbers can be installed on power plants to reduce sulfur emissions as well. With these new inventions, Illinois coal became a valuable commodity again and coal mines sprung to life. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO) realized how beneficial coal could be for the Illinois economy and began its coal program.
The IDCEO Coal Program:
The program implemented by the IDCEO is meant to cover all different aspects of the coal industry to support it in as many ways as possible. The different program sectors include:
o Coal Competitiveness Program
o Coal Research Program
o Coal Development Program
o Coal Demonstration Program
o Coal Revival Program
o Coal Education Program
The Coal Education Program:
“Strives to preserve and enhance marketability of Illinois coal; heighten awareness and understanding of the importance of the coal industry to the socioeconomic structure of Illinois; and create a positive image for the mining and utilization of coal in Illinois.”
Promotions for this program include:
• Annual art, essay, and commercial contests with coal themes as learning experiences for Illinois school children.
• Distribution of coal education resource materials and curriculum for grades K-4, 5-8, and high school for use by educators in the classroom. These materials are completely free to the educators. They are a ‘complete’ curriculum including math, science, English, social studies, and more, so no additional curriculum is necessary.
• For example, students learn about the history of coal mining for social studies and then do math problems with coal examples to see how much coal is necessary to power a house.
• The education material grossly displays the highlights of coal while neglecting its negative impacts. If a student asks if burning coal is contributing to global warming, the curriculum instructs a teacher to answer with, “There is a lot of inconclusive evidence right now with no scientific answer completely accepted or understood.”
• An annual teacher education conference highlighting the history of coal and coal mining, the coal industry’s role in Illinois economy as well as its significance to state’s energy profile and impact of clean coal technology on the environment. These conferences are absolutely free to the teachers, including a hotel, food, and transportation.
• Coal awareness activities for school children and public. Online you can access many coal themed crosswords, word finds, number games, and activities for children to do for fun.
What are we doing to stop this?
• We are raising awareness in the community. Many taxpayers are funding this program without their knowledge. While some will disagree with the program on moral grounds, we believe almost everyone will disagree with using money to fund this program while Illinois is already in debt.
• We are gaining support of educators. We hope to make strong connections with different elementary, middle, and high school teachers across the state of Illinois and team up on fighting this incomplete and biased curriculum.
• We are looking to students for assistance. As a student, you have an incredible voice and ability to produce change. Already several schools have committed to driving in hundreds of post cards by Dec. 15th.
Northeastern Illinois University: Goal, 200; Number signed so far, 10
DePaul University: Goal, 150-200; Number signed so far, unknown
Northwestern University: Goal, 200; Number signed so far, 210
University of Chicago: Goal, 200; Number signed so far, 145
Illinois Wesleyan: Goal, 100; Number signed so far, unknown
Oakton Community College: Goal, 250; Number signed so far, unknown
• We are showing our representatives that we are not content with this program. Many politicians have no idea that this program is upsetting so many people. By showing them it is, they can help us in legislation.
How can you help?
• We are currently conducting a postcard petition drive. We are trying to collect as many signatures as possible to show we are unhappy with the coal education program. You can sign a postcard to mail to a representative or sign up on our online petition.
• Collect postcards at your school or community! Raise awareness with an event or talk around your campus or neighborhood. Set up stations to collect signatures or hand out postcards to people interested in helping. The more postcards we get, the better!
• Brainstorm ideas to raise awareness of this coal education program across the state of Illinois.
If you have any questions, would like any more information, or are interested in obtaining a postcard, please contact:
Laura Knezevic at LKnezevic@GreenStudents.org.
For more information:
• Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IDCEO)
• Teach Coal Web Resources (includes Illinois links):
• Eco-Justice Collaborative Website
• Example of Kid’s Site
• IDCEO Program Overview
• Heartland Coalfield Alliance Information