For the third year in a row, the House and Senate have advanced spending legislation that rejects the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to federal STEM education programs.
The House and Senate have advanced spending bills that would provide steady or increased funding to most major STEM education programs across the federal government. While the Trump administration has consistently emphasized the importance of STEM education, it has repeatedly proposed to pare back or terminate certain education programs as part of broader reductions to the federal budget.
Tables with program-level funding details and links to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports that accompany the bills are available in the FYI Federal Science Budget Tracker. Below is a summary of provisions in the reports for the Department of Education and selected federal science agencies.
Department of Education
Formula grants. House and Senate appropriators both reject the Trump administration’s request to terminate three major grant programs that states and districts can use to support a variety of STEM and non-STEM education activities. Congress reauthorized these programs through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015, which outlines eligible activities for each program and recommends funding levels.
The $1.2 billion Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, which can support efforts such as improving STEM courses and establishing STEM-focused schools, would grow 13% under the House bill and 4% under the Senate version, falling short of the $1.6 billion authorized by ESSA for fiscal year 2020.
The House also seeks a 24% increase for the $2.1 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program, which can support STEM teacher professional development efforts, and an 8% increase for the $1.2 billion 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which can support STEM enrichment activities outside of schools. The Senate proposes level funding for both programs.
STEM initiatives. As one of the priority initiatives in its budget request, the Department of Education proposed to expand the Education Innovation and Research program budget from $130 million to $300 million, with $100 million dedicated to supporting field projects that promote “reform” in STEM education specifically.
The House exceeds the request for STEM activities, specifying that $125 million go toward strengthening instruction in “science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields, including computer science.” It further directs that funds should be targeted at programs supporting groups traditionally underrepresented in these fields, such as minorities, girls, and children living under the poverty line. Referring to computer science as a “basic skill in the 21st century global economy,” it also encourages the department to support education efforts in this area at Pre-K–12 schools across the country. Meanwhile, the Senate specifies $60 million for “STEM education activities, including computer science education,” equal to the amount Congress directed last year.
As part of its response to the recently enacted Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act, the department proposed to increase support for grants focused on improving the quality of CTE education from $7 million to $20 million, with an emphasis on STEM fields. The House does not adopt this proposal and the Senate specifies $17 million.
The department also proposed a STEM-focused initiative through the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grant program, which supports development of human capital management systems at schools. While it did not request a budget increase for the $200 million program, the department proposed that new grants prioritize projects that create incentive systems or differential salary schedules that provide higher compensation to teachers in STEM fields and other high-need areas. The House and Senate bills would both provide the $200 million for the program but do not comment specifically on the STEM proposal.
National Science Foundation
Through its Education and Human Resources account, NSF funds research capacity-building efforts at minority-serving institutions, STEM education pedagogy research, and various fellowship programs. While the administration proposed to cut 10% from the account’s current $910 million budget, the House bill proposes a 4% increase and the Senate a 3% increase.
Minority-serving institutions. The Senate report specifies level funding of $46 million for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, $35 million for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities program, $15 million for the Tribal Colleges and Universities program, and $40 million for the recently created Hispanic Serving Institutions program. For these same programs, the House report directs NSF to spend no less than $48.5 million, $38 million, $15 million, and $45 million, respectively. It also notes NSF does not have a program dedicated to Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions and encourages the agency to increase grant funding opportunities for such schools.
Broadening participation. Both the House and Senate indicate they support the INCLUDES program, NSF’s marquee effort to increase participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields. The Senate matches the requested level of $20 million, equal to the amount Congress specified last year, and the House recommends the program receive no less than that amount.
Career and technical education. One of the few education programs NSF requested an increase for is Advanced Technological Education, which supports training of technicians in STEM fields at institutions that grant two-year degrees. NSF’s governing board has taken an active interest in better supporting such jobs. The Senate endorses NSF’s request to increase the program from $66 million to $75 million, while the House does not specify an amount for it.
Fellowships. The Senate report specifies the Graduate Research Fellowship Program should receive level funding. NSF had proposed to reduce the number of new fellows supported through the program from 2,000 to 1,600. The Senate further specifies level funding for the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, which NSF also proposed to pare back to accommodate a reduced overall budget.
(Image credit – Department of Education)
Office of STEM Engagement. As in previous years, the House and Senate reject the administration’s proposal to eliminate NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement (formerly called the Office of Education), instead proposing to increase its current $110 million budget by 12% and 2%, respectively. In defending the office, the Senate states it supports NASA continuing programs that “provide hands-on learning experiences for middle, high school, and college students, including space launch activities,” which allow students to “experience the full range of STEM-related skills involved in designing, testing, and launching vehicles and designing payloads to deepen their interest in science and engineering fields.”
Other accounts. The Senate also specifies an increase for the Science Mission Directorate’s STEM education account, which is housed in the Astrophysics budget, from $45 million to at least $46 million. For the Space Technology Mission Directorate, both the House and the Senate also support NASA’s “development and flight of K–12 and collegiate educational payloads,” with the House specifying $5 million for the program. These payloads are typically CubeSats built by students that are launched on the same rocket as other science and technology payloads.
Department of Energy. The budget for the DOE Office of Science’s Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program would increase from $22.5 to $25 million under both the House and Senate bills, with most of the increase directed toward the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship program.
Department of Defense. DOD supports a variety of STEM scholarships and engagement opportunities through the National Defense Education Program, which has nearly tripled in size over the past five years to $136 million. The Senate proposes to pare the program back to $100 million, near the amount it received in fiscal year 2018, while the House proposes an increase to $142 million.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The House and Senate reject the administration’s proposal to eliminate all major programs in NOAA’s Office of Education, which supports STEM education at minority-serving institutions, environmental literacy, and scholarships. The Senate proposes flat funding of $29 million, while the House proposes a $6 million increase on the grounds that “changing climate and increasing degradation of our environment will necessitate greater future investments in these scientific fields and their corresponding workforces.” Both also reject the proposed termination of the $68 million National Sea Grant College Program, which supports a range of ocean research, education, and outreach activities.
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