Congress rejected proposed cuts to STEM education programs for fiscal year 2019, instead providing steady funding to most programs and a few targeted increases.
(Image credit – DOE)
Major federal STEM education programs received steady or increased funding in their appropriations for fiscal year 2019. Congress rejected the proposed elimination of several Education Department grant programs and the education offices at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, while significantly boosting the National Defense Education Program.
Tables detailing proposed and final funding levels for particular programs are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker. The tracker also contains links to reports that accompany the House and Senate’s original versions of the legislation, the directions in which remain valid unless negated in the final legislation. Outcomes for selected departments and agencies are summarized below.
Department of Education
Formula grants. Congress rejected the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate several grant programs that states and local districts can use to support STEM education as well as various non-STEM activities. The legislation instead provides level funding to the Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants and 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs and raises the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG) budget by 11 percent to $1.1 billion. Created by the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, SSAEG consolidated the Math and Science Partnerships program and other topic-specific activities into a single program. Despite the increase, the total SSAEG budget remains well below the $1.6 billion recommended by the act for this fiscal year.
Education Innovation and Research (EIR). The budget for the EIR program will increase 8 percent to $130 million, with the legislation specifying that $60 million go toward “STEM education activities, including computer science,” $10 million more than Congress directed last year. The department requested $180 million for EIR to support the implementation of a presidential directive that calls on it to spend at least $200 million annually on STEM education through discretionary grant programs, with a particular focus on computer science. The department has since announced that it met that requirement. The administration also released a STEM education strategy this fall that emphasizes the importance of students acquiring computational and mathematical skills.
In recent years, Congress has similarly stressed the importance of computer science education, and this year’s House and Senate reports both include language encouraging the department to expand its support for the field. The Senate report also directs the department to “expand access to STEM education in rural areas, including grants to institutions of higher education, in partnership with rural school districts, to utilize virtual and remote access to makerspace technologies.”
Career and Technical Education (CTE). The budget for CTE programs will increase 6 percent to $1.3 billion, with the legislation highlighting that these grants “can support coding programs that can be particularly important in rural and underserved areas that do not have access to coding resources.” The final agreement did not adopt a proposal to provide $12 million in support of a competition that would “promote innovation and reform in STEM education, including computer science.” It does however direct the department to work with industry to “expand computer science education programs and opportunities, including through apprenticeships.” On account of there being a “lack of a critical mass of teachers qualified to deliver engineering instruction,” the House report also encourages the department to support “formal and informal engineering education programs in elementary schools and secondary schools through public-private partnerships.”
Interagency coordination. The legislation directs the department to report on how it is coordinating with NASA and the National Science Foundation in its STEM programs for students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Senate report language also directs the department to coordinate with NSF and other agencies to “avoid duplication and ensure that activities funded under [the EIR program] build on existing evidence or provide a unique benefit to the field.”
The Minority Science and Engineering Improvement program budget received a marginal increase to $11 million.
The budget for NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate, which supports fellowship programs and research on STEM education pedagogy, will increase 1 percent to $910 million.
Broadening participation programs. The legislation allocates $40 million to the recently launched Hispanic Serving Institutions program, $10 million above the amount Congress specified last year. Via Senate report language, NSF is directed to use these funds to “build capacity at institutions of higher education that typically do not receive high levels of NSF funding.” The Senate report also recommends that $20 million go toward the INCLUDES program, NSF’s marquee effort to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields, matching the requested amount. Longstanding broadening participation programs such as the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program, and the Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers program will receive steady funding.
Career and Technical Education. NSF’s primary CTE program, Advanced Technological Education, will receive “no less than” its current funding level of $66 million. The House report also directs NSF to “provide grants for research about STEM education approaches and the STEM-related workforce in order to develop innovations in mentoring, training and apprenticeships,” echoing recently enacted legislation.
Fellowships and scholarships. Senate report language rejects proposed cuts to the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, and the Scholarships in STEM program, directing they be funded at the fiscal year 2018 level.
Office of Education. The legislation renames the Office of Education as “STEM Engagement” and raises its budget 10 percent to $110 million, rebuffing the administration’s proposal to defund the office for the second year in a row. The legislation specifies $44 million for the Space Grant program, $33 million for the Minority University Research and Education Program, and $21 million for NASA’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR). Noting that it is “not averse” to funding the office’s activities elsewhere in NASA, the Senate report directs the agency to undertake a “comprehensive review” of all its STEM education activities.
Science Mission Directorate. The legislation specifies $45 million within NASA’s Astrophysics Division budget for education and public outreach activities across NASA’s research divisions, $1 million more than last year. NASA is directed via Senate report language to prioritize education efforts that are “linked directly to its science missions.” House report language highlights the educational value of impact craters, encouraging NASA to “make funds available for external competitive funding to conduct further scientific investigation of well-preserved and easily accessible impact craters, and provide education and outreach on Earth’s erosion processes and the scientific method of research.”
Department of Defense. Funding for DOD STEM education activities is centered in the National Defense Education program, which will increase by 32 percent to $136 million, building on a substantial increase provided last fiscal year. The program aims to develop STEM talent through scholarships and fellowships such as the Science, Mathematics, And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship-for-Service program, as well as through various outreach activities. The legislation also allocates $15 million to the new Manufacturing Engineering Education Program, which received an initial appropriation of $10 million in fiscal year 2017. Additional funding for STEM education programs is dispersed among the military service branches.
Department of Energy. The budget for DOE’s primary STEM education account, Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists, will rise 15 percent to $23 million. This increase is split between the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship Program and the Graduate Student Research Program, which now stand at $10.3 million and $3.5 million, respectively. DOE funds several other workforce development activities through separate accounts and across its national laboratories. Among them, the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship program is sustained at $10 million.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The legislation rejects the proposed elimination of the Office of Education and the Sea Grant Fellowship Program, instead increasing their budgets slightly to $29 million and $68 million, respectively. Via Senate report language, NOAA is instructed to “consider the creation of a Cooperative Science Center at a Hispanic Serving Institution to help educate and train the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, and one that is underrepresented in NOAA’s scientific workforce.” The report also directs the Sea Grant program to “increase its efforts to recruit qualified, non-partisan candidates who are committed to working on oceans and coastal issues for any member of Congress, regardless of political affiliation.”