The Trump administration proposes familiar cuts to a range of STEM education programs in its fiscal year 2020 budget request, while favoring those tied to career and technical education.
The Trump administration’s latest budget request for federal STEM education programs resembles those it has made in previous years. The administration repeats proposals to defund education offices at NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and trim education programs at other science agencies. At the Education Department, it again seeks increases for a set of STEM education initiatives while also proposing to terminate several formula grant programs.
The fiscal year 2020 budget request is also the first released since the administration issued its five-year strategic plan for STEM education late last year, and the document is cited across agencies’ budget justifications. Some programs tied to the strategy’s priority areas would see funding increases under the request, particularly those tied to career and technical education (CTE), though others would still see a range of cuts.
Highlights for selected programs are summarized below. Details are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.
Department of Education
The administration stresses the importance of STEM education in two of the six “major initiatives” outlined in the Education Department’s budget request.
As part of an initiative to “promote workforce development for the 21st Century,” the department proposes to increase support for CTE programs, with a particular focus on STEM fields. The budget justification states,
The administration prioritizes STEM, including computer science, because those skills drive solutions to complex industry problems. The request funds activities that help prepare students — in particular, women and minorities who are underrepresented in these fields — for the growing role technology plays in driving the American economy. The administration also believes expanding apprenticeships and reforming ineffective education and workforce development programs will help more Americans to obtain relevant skills and high-paying jobs.
To meet these goals, the administration requests an additional $13 million for grants to improve the effectiveness of CTE programs in STEM areas, “particularly computer science,” and an extra $60 million to support state-level “pre-apprenticeship” programs. It also proposes to double a fee collected through the H-1B visa program, a portion of which would support CTE programs that “prepare American workers for jobs that are currently filled by foreign workers, especially in [STEM] fields.”
As part of a separate initiative to “elevate the teaching profession through innovation,” the administration proposes to prioritize funding within the existing $200 million Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants program toward supporting STEM teachers. In particular, the department proposes to help grantees implement “sustainable strategies for providing incentive payments or differential salary schedules for effective teachers” in areas were recruitment and retention is challenging, such as STEM fields.
The administration also proposes to increase the Education Innovation and Research program budget from $130 million to $300 million. Of this amount, $100 million would be dedicated to STEM education and computer science activities, which is $40 million above the amount Congress provided for fiscal year 2019.
Echoing prior budget requests, the administration again proposes to eliminate three grant programs that state and local organizations can use to support various STEM and non-STEM education activities: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants, Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. Congress has rejected their proposed elimination to date, instead providing level or increased funding for each.
National Science Foundation
The budget of NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate would drop 10 percent to $823 million under the request, with cuts spread across a variety of fellowship programs and STEM education research areas. For instance, NSF’s flagship Graduate Research Fellowship Program would fall 10 percent to $257 million, resulting in about 400 fewer new fellowships being awarded, and the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship would be cut by a quarter to $47 million.
A few programs tied to priority areas would receive steady funding or slight increases. The Advanced Technological Education program, which supports CTE programs at community colleges, would rise from $66 million to $75 million. NSF has recently taken a strong interest in better understanding the types of jobs that require STEM skills but that do not necessarily require a four-year degree.
NSF’s agency-wide Innovation Corps program, which teaches scientists entrepreneurial skills, would remain at $33 million. The agency’s marquee effort for broadening the participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields, INCLUDES, would likewise receive steady funding of $20 million. The budget for similar programs would be pared back though. The steepest cut would fall on the recently created Hispanic Serving Institutions program, which would drop from $40 million to $15 million.
The administration again proposes to eliminate the $110 million Office of STEM Engagement, which funds the Space Grant program, the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), and the Minority University Research and Education Project. NASA would use unobligated funds to close out existing projects. Congress rejected the proposal in the last budget cycle, instead increasing the office’s budget by 10 percent.
Education activities conducted by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate would receive steady funding of $46 million through the Astrophysics Division, which administers the budget on behalf of the entire directorate. NASA notes these activities will undergo an evaluation by the National Academies in 2020, fulfilling a congressional directive.
Department of Defense. The National Defense Education Program would receive $92 million under the request, $6 million above last year’s request though $44 million below the current enacted level. The program supports various STEM education and outreach activities, such as the SMART Scholarship-for-Service and the Manufacturing Engineering Education Program. Separately within the Office of the Defense Secretary budget, the administration requests $31 million for programs that fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, about equal to the level requested last year but $9 million below the current level.
Department of Energy. Funding for the Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists program would drop from $22.5 million to $19.5 million, returning it to the level enacted for fiscal year 2018. The budget would roll back recent increases to the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships and Graduate Student Research programs, reducing the number of students supported by about 13 percent and 45 percent, respectively. Additionally, a $400,000 cut to the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship would decrease the number of K-12 STEM teachers the program places in agencies from six to four. Meanwhile, funding would increase slightly for Community College Internships and remain level for the National Science Bowl, a quiz competition for middle and high school students.
Within the National Nuclear Security Administration, funding for the Academic Alliances and Partnerships program would drop from $53 million to $45 million. Under the reduced amount, NNSA would provide level funding of $20 million to the Minority Serving Institution Partnership Program and would prioritize the Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship over support for research centers.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The administration proposes to defund all major programs in NOAA’s Office of Education, which supports STEM education at Minority Serving Institutions, environmental literacy, and undergraduate scholarships. The request retains $1 million of the current $29 million budget to “support a streamlined, centralized office” that would focus on “coordinating and improving the performance of NOAA’s numerous activities in STEM education.”