While the Administration’s FY18 federal budget proposed major cuts to funding for STEM education and critical research, early indicators in from U.S. House and Senate committee hearings and mark-ups bring some good news for areas of STEM education and critical research. As the House and Senate must agree on a federal budget, and since both sides seem to be supporting at least some STEM and research funding, SWE is hopeful that the Administration’s proposed cuts will not go into effect.
In addition, recently introduced pro-STEM legislation and implementation around existing legislation demonstrate even broader support for STEM education. To that end, SWE is pleased to share some recent updates from Washington, DC:
House Subcommittee Hearing - “STEM and Computer Science Education: Preparing the 21st Century Workforce”
On July 26th, 2017, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology held a hearing to highlight the importance of STEM and computer science education to meeting a wide range of critical current and future workforce needs.
James Brown of the STEM Ed Coalition was one of the subject matter experts that provided a formal testimony during this hearing. He highlighted how state education agencies are leveraging the flexibility provided in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to implement science-based accountability and performance standards. Currently, 16 states and the District of Columbia have submitted official ESSA plans and 8 additional states have made draft plans available for a total of 25 available plans. Of the 25 ESSA plans available (official and draft), 17 have included or are strongly considering including performance on state science assessments in their accountability systems and approximately a quarter of these states have outlined dedicated resources to improving their professional capacity in order to provide more STEM and computer science opportunities for students.
Department of Education & Science Education
While attending a briefing held by the STEM ED Coalition in Washington, DC SWE learned that the Department of Education (ED) recently released guidance to three states who submitted ESSA plans. The feedback they gave to Delaware implied ED did not support including science in accountability standards. The Coalition wrote a letter of concern to ED and received a very positive response indicating ED’s continued support of science as an “other academic indicator” for states under ESSA.
Senate Appropriations Bill Funds OSTP, NASA, and NSF
In an effort to level-fund or ensure cuts are minimal, there was bi-partisan agreement around the following funding levels within the larger Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) FY2018 Appropriations bill. The mark-up and hearing on this bill took place on Thursday, July 27, 2017. To that end, the Senate’s version of funding was a few hundred million short of the version of the bill on the House side.
Highlights of spending plans for programs related to SWE’s mission are listed below:
- The Office of Science and Technology Policy was level funded at $5.54 million
- The National Aeronautics and Space Administration was funded at $19.53 billion
- The Science directorate was funded at $5.57 billion
- Education program was level funded at $100 million (this program was originally eliminated in the Administration’s proposed FY18 budget).
- The National Science Foundation was funded at $7.31 billion (2% below FY17 but 11% above the proposed FY18 budget)
- The Education and Human Resources directorate was funded at $862 million (this is $17 million above FY17 and $102 million above the Administration’s request)
- The ADVANCE program was level funded at $18 million
- Research and related activities were funded at $5.92 billion, just below FY17 but well above $5.36 billion Administration’s proposed budget.
The next step for this bill will be consideration by the full Senate, although it’s unclear if this bill will move on its own or as part of a larger spending package, called an “Omnibus” bill. Funding may also be ensured through a year-long “continuing resolution”, which is a way to extend funding mostly for existing programs. Whatever happens, funding won’t be picked up again until September.
Support for Veterans Seeking STEM Degrees
Before breaking for recess, both the House and Senate unanimously passed the “Forever GI Bill”, which contains over $3 billion of funding for veterans benefits, including those pursuing STEM degrees that take more than the standard number of credit hours, over the course of a decade. The bill also ends the 15-year limit on GI eligibility. We were asked to support the bill by veterans’ organizations and proudly put out a statement of support and social media posts.