The final appropriations law for fiscal year 2017 provides generally steady funding for most STEM education programs at the federal science agencies. However, a Department of Education grant program dedicated to STEM has been replaced with a broader state grant program that is receiving less than a quarter of the funding authorized in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
On May 5, President Trump signed into law final appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2017 that for the most part provides steady funding for federal STEM education programs. The law is the product of two years of work, and the funding levels it mandates will last until at least the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The legislation’s accompanying explanatory statement provides policy direction and specifies spending levels for individual STEM education programs at the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, Department of Energy, and Department of Defense, among others. It also specifies that direction provided in last year’s House and Senate appropriations committee reports still stands unless superseded by new language in the explanatory statement. While the statement and reports do not carry the authority of law, agencies typically abide by them.
Congress also recently provided policy direction to DOEd for K–12 education through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) enacted in December 2015. ESSA sunsetted the $153 million Math and Science Partnerships program managed by DOEd, but also created a new program of state block grants — called Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants — that can be spent on STEM education programs, among other priorities. The new state-centered framework for K–12 STEM education is reflected in DOEd’s fiscal year 2017 budget accounts. Most STEM programs managed by the science agencies, meanwhile, are receiving similar funding to fiscal year 2016 levels:
FY17 STEM Education Appropriations
|DOEd Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants||-||500||1,000||300||400||-|
|NSF Education & Human Resources||880||899*||880||880||880||0%|
|NASA Office of Education||115||100||115||108||100||-13.0%|
|NASA Science Mission Directorate Education & Public Outreach||37||25||37||42||37||0%|
|DOE Workforce Development for Teachers & Scientists||20||21||21||21||20||0%|
|DOD National Defense Education Program||54||69||69||79||79||46.0%|
|NOAA Office of Education||27||16||24||27||27||1.1%|
All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.
* $54 million in proposed new mandatory spending excluded.
Budget information on additional STEM programs is available in the Federal Science Budget Tracker on FYI’s website. Below are selected highlights from the bill and its accompanying reports.
House report language commends the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Education (CoSTEM) for its role in coordinating federal STEM education programs. It directs CoSTEM to develop a plan for a “unified online portal” to connect all federal STEM programs and materials in a centralized location. Senate report language more broadly directs OSTP to collaborate with NSF, NIST, and the Office of Personnel Management to establish a new NSTC committee for federal STEM Inclusion training to “foster more inclusive workplace environments.”
Department of Education
The implementation of ESSA brought significant change to the DOEd budget in fiscal year 2017, including the restructuring of the department’s grant programs. As expected, the 2017 appropriations law zeroes out the long-running Math and Science Partnerships program, which ESSA did not reauthorize. States will now receive major blocks of funding through Title IV grants, which they can spend on STEM education among other priorities. The final appropriations agreement specifies that states may distribute these grants on a competitive basis. Senate report language underscores that the Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants within Title IV may be used for “programs that build skills in STEM, including computer science, and that foster innovation in learning by supporting nontraditional STEM education teaching methods.” Congress is providing $400 million in fiscal year 2017 for the Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants, only 24 percent of the level fully authorized in ESSA.
- STEM Master Teacher Corps: Specifies no funding for the STEM Master Teacher Corps program, rejecting the Obama administration’s $10 million request which would support efforts to recruit and retain STEM educators.
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Specifies $1.2 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a 2.1 percent increase over last year’s level. These funds can be utilized to establish centers that provide STEM enrichment programs and activities to students during non-school hours.
National Science Foundation
Congress provided $880 million for NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate, and directs NSF to establish a new, $15 million Hispanic Serving Institutions program to “build capacity at institutions of higher education that typically do not receive high levels of NSF grant funding.”
- Women in STEM: Specifies $18 million in the Research and Related Activities Account for the NSF-wide Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers (ADVANCE) program, 17 percent above the requested amount.
- Informal science education: Specifies $63 million for the Advancing Informal STEM Learning program, rebuffing an $8 million discretionary cut proposed by the Obama administration.
- STEM+C: Specifies $52 million for the STEM + Computing Partnerships, a 19 percent decrease from the last year’s level.
Funding for NASA’s Office of Education is decreasing 13 percent to $100 million, equal to the Obama administration’s request, while funding for STEM education programs in the Science Mission Directorate remains steady at $37 million .
- Administrative overhead: Requires NASA to submit a report that analyzes how Office of Education funds have been spent over the last three fiscal years, including a plan to ensure that no more than 5 percent overhead is charged by fiscal year 2018.
- Space Grant: Specifies $40 million for the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, rejecting the Obama administration’s request to decrease funding to $14 million. Requires NASA to “allocate the entire [Space Grant] funding amount for consortia-led institutions in all 52 participating jurisdictions according to the percentage allocation provided to States in the current 5-year grant award.”
- Minority University Research and Education Project: Specifies $32 million for the Minority University Research and Education Project, rejecting the Obama administration’s proposed $2 million decrease.
- Informal education: Provides up to $10 million for the Competitive Program for Science, Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitors Centers within the STEM Education and Accountability Projects account.
Department of Energy
Multiple DOE STEM education programs housed within different line offices are receiving funding equal to last year’s level.
- Fellowships: Prohibits DOE from “funding fellowship and scholarship programs in fiscal year 2017 unless the programs were explicitly included in the budget justification or funded within [the proposal].”
- Office of Science: Specifies $19.5 million for Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program, which funds programs such as the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program, Graduate Student Research Program, and National Science Bowl. Specifies $10 million for the continuation of the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship in the Advanced Scientific Computing Research program.
- Nuclear Energy: Specifies $5 million for the Integrated University Program, rejecting the Obama administration’s request to zero out the program.
Department of Defense
Multiple DOD STEM education programs are receiving a boost in funding over the requested amount, including an extra $10 million for both the National Defense Education Program as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions.
- National Defense Education Program: Specifies $79.3 million, a $10 million increase over the request. The boost goes towards creation of a new Manufacturing Universities Grant Program, which will fund manufacturing education and training activities at universities, companies, non-profit organizations, and academic-industry consortia.
- Minority Serving Institutions: Specifies $33.6 million, a 42 percent increase over the request, for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, and encourages DOD to consider focusing “on increasing the participation of minority students through engaged mentoring, enriched research experiences, and opportunities to publish, present, and network” when awarding competitive funding for the program.
- Intelligence Community STEM Workforce: Prior to final passage of the appropriations bill, Congress attached an authorization act that updates policies governing the federal intelligence agencies. Among its provisions are a requirement that the director of national intelligence submit a five-year investment strategy for STEM outreach and recruitment to Congress and an authorization for the creation of a new pay scale that permits salary increases for intelligence community employees with STEM backgrounds.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA’s Office of Education is receiving $26.9 million, slightly above last year’s enacted level. The increase comes despite the Obama administration’s request for a $10 million decrease, including a proposal to zero out Competitive Educational Grants that support a range of formal and informal education programs and projects. Within the Office of Education, Congress is also providing $14.4 million for the Education Partnership Program, which supports outreach to minority-serving institutions.