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Geography Education Group Pushes More Federal, State Dollars For Program

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott has endorsed a push for increased geography education.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has endorsed a push for increased geography education.

The political push by a group of geographers has managed to unite a bipartisan group of governors that normally don't agree.

A campaign by the Association of American Geographers to increase dedicated federal funding for geography education has garnered endorsements from at least 13 governors, along with four former secretaries of state, two former defense secretaries and a variety of corporations and nonprofits. Funding for geography education is being touted as an economic necessity by the group, which said that No Child Left Behind made geography one of nine curriculum areas, but did not provide the funding.

"If students are not exposed to spatial thinking in K to 12 education, they will be challenged at some level to use GIS, GPS and other tools; this is a workforce development issue," John Wertman, AAG's senior program manager for government relations, told HuffPost.

The association is using the current reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act -- the main U.S. education platform on which NCLB was passed in 2001 -- as a way to emphasize the need for dedicated geography funding, said Wertman. The platform focuses on science, technology and engineering, and math education, but Wertman said AAG research shows more companies also stress the need for geography and spatial thinking in the workplace.

The group has reached out mostly to state governments and corporations for help. The list of governors offering their endorsements is bipartisan: Kansas' Sam Brownback (R), Florida's Rick Scott (R), Maryland's Martin O'Malley (D) and Vermont's Peter Shumlin (D). The group also announced support from former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright, James Baker, George Schultz and Henry Kissinger.

At the National Governors Association meeting in July in Williamsburg, Va., he also discussed the issue with governors, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Wertman wants to set up a more formal meeting with federal education officials in the future.

A 1999 episode of "The West Wing" is set around "Big Block of Cheese Day," with fictional White House staffers hearing from a variety of organizations that would normally not receive meetings. One of the groups included the fictional Cartographers for Social Justice group, which sought a redrawing of the world's maps.

Wertman laughed at the comparison but noted the AAG campaign is more grounded. "We view it as an important way to get funding for geography teaching."

Note: AOL, the parent company of The Huffington Post has endorsed the AAG campaign for geography education.

CORRECTION: The original story misidentified the AAG, the Association of American Geographers.

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