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U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools

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Legislation, Regulations, and Guidance


ED is responsible for administering U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. ED-GRS is authorized by the Department of Education Organization Act, 20 U.S.C. 3402 (2) and (3).

The mission of the Department of Education is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. Its green schools work falls under the four major areas of ED activities:

  1. Establish policies related to federal education funding, administer distribution of funds and monitor their use.
  2. Collect data and oversee research on America's schools.
  3. Identify major issues in education and focus national attention on them.
  4. Enforce federal laws prohibiting discrimination in programs that receive federal funds.

ED's green efforts do not, however, work in areas specifically prohibited by law. In creating ED, Congress specified that:

No provision of a program administered by the Secretary or by any other officer of the Department shall be construed to authorize the Secretary or any such officer to exercise any direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution, school, or school system, over any accrediting agency or association, or over the selection or content of library resources, textbooks, or other instructional materials by any educational institution or school system, except to the extent authorized by law. (Section 103[b], Public Law 96-88

Thus, the Department does not

  • develop curricula;
  • set requirements for enrollment and graduation;
  • determine state education standards; or
  • develop or implement testing to measure whether states are meeting their education standards.

These are responsibilities handled by the various states and districts as well as by public and private organizations of all kinds, not by the U.S. Department of Education. This is true all areas of education, including green schools matters.

Please note: ED’s award is called "U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools" and has "District Sustainability Award" and "Postsecondary Sustainability Award" categories. "Green Ribbon Schools" without the "U.S. Department of Education" is not ED’s award, but instead is a separate program overseen by another organization.

Last Modified: 11/19/2018