After much ballyhoo about the prospect of a government shutdown, in the last few days of the fiscal year, Congress finally approved a short-term funding bill that will fund the government until December. The legislation, called a "continuing resolution" or C.R. for short, did not provide any new funding for education or research initiatives and only delays final action on funding for issues like K-12 STEM education until December. Congress will then decide how much to invest in education and research for what remains of fiscal year 2017. As the month comes to an end, Members of the House and Senate will return to the campaign trail—either fighting in their own races or stumping for Congressional colleagues in other districts or states or presidential candidates.
America COMPETES Act
While funding dominated action on the Hill in September, STEM advocates had hoped the House and Senate would continue making progress to advance bipartisan education and research proposals, but ultimately went into October feeling empty-handed. Proposals such as the reauthorizations of both the America COMPETES Act and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act did not move much this month. In the good news column, the latter did win approval from the House of Representatives; unfortunately, Senate attempts to get a Perkins CTE bill through consideration by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee fell short. And the America COMPETES Act barely won any attention during the funding frenzy.
2016 U.S. Presidential Debate
In case you weren’t one of the 80+ million who watched, the first of three scheduled debates between the two major party candidates for President was held at Hofstra this month. While STEM education was not a major topic during the debate, both candidates did touch on their thoughts regarding the importance of diversity and gender equity. Prior to the debate Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump had both issued statements about their platform and how it relates to STEM education. Mr. Trump said, "There are a host of STEM programs already in existence. What the federal government should do is to make sure that educational opportunities are available for everyone. This means we must allow market influences to bring better, higher quality educational circumstances to more children." In contrast, Secretary Clinton has stated, "Every student should have the opportunity to learn computer science by the time they graduate high school," and "Strong STEM programming in every public school is critical to our nation's success and to reducing economic and social inequality." (For more on their positions, go here.) Education didn’t get much attention during the debate. Neither did research. Maybe that will change in the second and third meetups.
Computer Science For All Summit
Speaking of the White House, on September 14, the Administration hosted a "Computer Science For All Summit" at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. During the summit, which built on the President’s proposal from earlier this year, the White House acknowledged that there are now 31 states that allow CS to count towards high school graduation. Also announced during the event were the more than $25 million in new grants awarded from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to expand computer science education. (For more on the summit, including details of commitments from the Girl Scouts of the USA, the National Center for Women & Information Technology, Google, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, go here.) The outgoing President believes computer science is a subject foundational not only to engineering and other STEM subjects, but to almost all academic and professional pursuits in the 21st Century. He and his staff are hoping to make progress on this point as the clock runs out on his time in the Oval Office.
Members of Congress are not expected to return to Washington, DC, until after the elections. As always, SWE suggests members try to talk to with their Congressional representatives while they are home. There is still time to push for SWE priorities, particularly regarding funding, with your local representatives and senators. If you want some tips on how to proceed or set up a meeting in the district with your representative, be sure to check out the replay of our April 25, 2016 webinar.