The Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget request for the Department of Education prioritizes certain STEM education programs, while again proposing deep cuts to the department’s primary grant programs, which support STEM education at state and district levels. The administration would also mostly cut or maintain budgets for other STEM education programs across the federal government.
There is both continuity and change in the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2019 budget request for programs that support STEM education. Echoing last year’s request, the administration is proposing to eliminate several programs, including the education offices at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation’s STEM education programs would receive more modest cuts, while overall funding for its Education and Human Resources Directorate would remain about flat due to the administration’s last-minute budget addendum.
The request also reflects the administration’s interest in reshaping the Department of Education’s role in STEM education. Within its proposal, DOEd identifies STEM education as one of its top priorities and details how it plans to allocate at least $200 million annually to programs supporting STEM and computer science activities. However, the proposal again includes the elimination of funds for three major programs at DOEd that provide grants to states and districts to support STEM initiatives: the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants.
Below is a summary of highlights for selected federal STEM education programs. More detailed budget information is available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
Department of Education
STEM among department’s six top priorities. DOEd’s budget request identifies “promoting innovation and reform around STEM education” as one of its six priorities for fiscal year 2019, noting:
Today, too many of our Nation’s K–12 and postsecondary students lack access to high-quality STEM and computer science education. Supporting STEM education is imperative to better equip America’s young people with the relevant knowledge and skills that would enable them to secure high-paying, stable jobs through their careers.
This emphasis follows President Trump’s memorandum, issued in September 2017, directing DOEd to commit at least $200 million annually, starting in fiscal year 2018, through existing programs to activities that support STEM and computer science education. The memo gives DOEd the discretion to determine which of its grant programs it can use to meet the directive.
In this year’s request, DOEd divides this amount into $180 million for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program, which supports states in addressing persistent challenges in education, and $20 million within the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program for national initiatives, such as program assessment and operation of a national center for career and technical education research.
DOEd would also sustain funding for several programs supporting STEM activities, including the $10 million Minority Science and Engineering Improvement program, certain grants within the Institute of Education Sciences, and $100 million in mandatory funding for the Hispanic Serving Institution STEM and Articulation program, which aims to increase the number of Hispanic students attaining degrees in STEM.
Major state grant programs supporting STEM would be terminated. Among the grant programs targeted for elimination are several authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act, enacted in 2015, that states and districts can use to support STEM education. These include the Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants, currently funded at $400 million, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs within Title IV, currently funded at $1.2 billion, and the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program within Title II, currently funded at $2.1 billion.
The proposed eliminations are likely to be rejected by Congress, which has so far defended funding for the Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants and 21st Century Community Learning Centers from the administration’s previous proposal to terminate them in fiscal year 2018. However, the House’s fiscal year 2018 spending bill for DOEd would accept last year’s proposal to eliminate the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program.
Career and Technical Education programs boosted. The department requests a marginal increase to the $1.1 billion budget currently enacted for CTE programs in contrast to last year’s proposal to cut CTE’s budget by 13 percent. The administration has placed a growing emphasis on CTE programs to address skill gaps and shortages in jobs that do not require a four-year degree.
The increase is primarily directed toward a $13 million boost for national CTE programs and initiatives, currently funded at $7 million. Like last year’s budget, which proposed an even larger STEM-focused boost, the administration again intends to use the funding to support a new competitive grant program to develop, implement, and expand CTE programs in STEM and computer science fields.
Congress may be receptive to this year’s request for CTE, as it has expressed interest in related programs and initiatives. Last year, the House passed legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins CTE Act, which aims to increase the quality of CTE programs nationwide, although it has stalled in the Senate. President Trump’s recently released infrastructure plan includes measures designed to encourage apprenticeships and workforce training, including reforms to promote STEM CTE programs proposed in the House’s bill.
Education Innovation & Research program also boosted. Meanwhile, DOEd’s $100 million EIR program would receive a $80 million increase. The program — which is authorized within Title IV of ESSA — funds grant programs that support the development, testing, and expansion of innovative solutions to improve achievement of underserved students. EIR grants address persistent educational challenges, including rural education, teacher and leader preparation, and STEM education.
Unlike last year’s request, which proposed focusing on school choice research, this year’s request would focus EIR funds on “the twin goals of building the evidence base for improved STEM education and helping to ensure that [local educational agencies] have the tools they need to address the persistent challenges in their lowest performing schools.”
National Science Foundation
NSF STEM education cut. The administration is proposing $1.1 billion in support for STEM education at NSF, representing a $113 million or 9 percent decrease below the fiscal year 2017 levels. Within that amount, the foundation’s K–12 and undergraduate STEM programs would each receive $29 million and $34 million cuts, respectively, graduate and professional programs would see a $55 million cut.
The Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate would maintain its current $873 million budget. NSF was prepared to request $619 million for EHR in fiscal year 2019, but the administration’s last-minute addendum resulted in EHR being spared from what would have been a 30 percent cut. Last year’s request proposed to cut EHR’s funding by $119 million or 14 percent.
Advanced Technological Education. The $66 million ATE program — which supports CTE programs in high-demand science and engineering fields — would see a slight increase in fiscal year 2019. The administration proposed to cut the program last year by 11 percent, but is now emphasizing the importance of the program for the skilled technical workforce.
The National Science Board has ramped up its efforts over the past year to address the skilled technical workforce within NSF, and in November, established a new task force to examine current challenges and opportunities. Task force and NSB member Victor McCrary also recently testified at a House Science Committee hearing on workforce training opportunities, highlighting the role of NSF programs like ATE in building capacity and meeting the needs of the growing U.S. STEM workforce. At the same hearing, Research and Technology Subcommittee Chair Barbara Comstock (R-VA) hinted at possible legislation focused on the skilled technical workforce.
Furthermore, NSB released a companion statement alongside its “Science and Engineering Indicators 2018” report that called out the importance of supporting the growth of a STEM-capable workforce, including increased investment in community and technical colleges and CTE programs at all career levels.
Graduate Research Fellowships. Funding for the $320 million Graduate Research Fellowship program would decrease by 15 percent, reducing the number of new participants from 2,000 to 1,500. Last year, NSF proposed to halve the number of new fellowships to 1,000, a move explicitly rejected by Senate appropriators.
STEM+C Partnerships. The administration again proposes to cut the $64 million STEM + Computing Partnerships program by 37 percent, which supports activities that advance K–12 computational skills through STEM teaching and learning.
However, the document says other EHR programs — highlighting Discovery Research PreK–12, Advancing Informal STEM Learning, and EHR’s core research on STEM learning — will expand their portfolios to encompass research on “computer science teaching and learning” and “computational thinking and the integration of computing with other STEM disciplines.”
Noyce Scholarship. The administration again proposes to cut the $62 million Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program by 24 percent. The program provides support for STEM professionals to become teachers.
INCLUDES Big Idea. The administration requests a $6 million increase for the $14 million Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) program, which seeks to scale up efforts to increase diversity in STEM. The increased funding for INCLUDES in fiscal year 2019 is part of NSF’s planned investment in its 10 Big Ideas.
Office of Education. The administration once again targets the $100 million Office of Education for elimination. NASA would use unobligated funds in fiscal year 2019 to close out its portfolio of grants and cooperative agreement programs, including the Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, Minority University and Research Education Program, and STEM Education and Accountability Projects. Congress rejected last year’s request to shutter the office.
The request also proposes to establish a new office at NASA headquarters within the Agency Management and Operations account to coordinate the agency’s ongoing STEM engagement efforts.
Science Mission Directorate. SMD’s $37 million education budget, now called “science activation,” would increase 21 percent to $45 million. The administration again would account for these funds entirely through the Astrophysics Division budget.
Department of Energy
Office of Science. The $19.5 million Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program would see a slight decrease in support in fiscal year 2019. In contrast to last year’s request, the administration would maintain support for the $1.2 million Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship program.
The administration proposes to maintain funding for the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship program at $10 million, emphasizing the need “given the significant external competition for trained workforce across the [Advanced Scientific Computing and Research] portfolio and the need to develop the workforce to support the accelerated timeline for the delivery of an exascale system.” Continued support for the fellowship aligns with the Office of Science’s prioritization of exascale computing.
The request also notes the importance of supporting graduate education and training in particle accelerator physics, and specifically says while the High Energy Physics General Accelerator R&D program would see 14 percent decrease, the Traineeship Program for Accelerator Science would still be supported.
National Nuclear Security Administration. The $50 million Academic Alliances and Partnerships subprogram that funds activities to develop the next-generation technical workforce would see a 7 percent increase. Within the subprogram, funding would be maintained for the $19 million Minority Serving Institution Partnerships Program, while the $31 million for Stewardship Science Academic Alliance Grants would see an 11 percent boost.
Department of Defense
National Defense Education Program. The administration proposes to increase funding for the National Defense Education Program by 8 percent to $86 million. NDEP supports opportunities for student and researcher engagement with defense labs and technical staff.
Minority-Serving Institutions. The $34 million Historical Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Institutions program would see a $4 million or 9 percent decrease, though the administration’s request is higher than last year’s.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Office of Education. The administration once again proposes to terminate NOAA’s $27 million Office of Education. Elimination of the office would also terminate support for the $14 million Educational Partnership Program for Minority Serving Institutions program that supports students from underrepresented groups as well as the $3 million Competitive Education Grants that support formal and informal education activities to enhance awareness and understanding of Earth systems science.