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Congress Adjourns for August Recess - Leaves Some Encouragement Behind

August 31, 2017

This edition will focus on current status of appropriations of interest to science museums and the STEM education world.

I. EDUCATION FUNDING

The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriation Committee passed its version of a spending bill for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the US Department of Education, the Institute of Education Sciences, and other agencies in late July. The Senate Committee has not yet acted on their bill.

A. INSTITUTE OF MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SCIENCE

You may recall the Trump Administration called for eliminating the IMLS by proposing just enough funds to close shop in FY18. Well, thankfully, IMLS enjoys bipartisan support in Congress and the Labor-HHS recommended $231,000,000 for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which is the same as FY17 and $208,000,000 above the FY18 Administration's request.

Many thanks are due to Reps. Paul Tonko, Leonard Lance, Louise Slaughter and David McKinley for leading the charge in generating a Dear Colleague letter to appropriators with 160 signatories. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Senator Dan Sullivan led the effort to save IMLS in the Senate with 37 Senators signing on to the Senate Dear Colleague letter.

B. US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

1) Title I State Assessments

These funds are available to states to develop and implement academic standards and assessments, including the integration of engineering skills and practices. The Committee recommended $369,100,000 for State Assessments, which is the same as the FY17 and $8,181,000 below the FY18 Administration's request. The program includes a set-aside for audits to identify and eliminate low-quality or duplicative assessments.

2) Title II-A Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants Program

This section of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides for teacher professional development. Currently funded at $2 billion, the Administration proposed $0 and the Committee followed suit with a party line vote. Democrats sent a Dear Colleague letter to appropriators outlining their opposition. They said, "Program elimination will have an especially negative impact on schools serving low-income and minority students, which have a concentration of inexperienced teachers and disproportionately face teacher shortages."

3) Tile IV-A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (SSAEG) Program

"STEM and Computer Science Education.—The Committee notes that funds available under this program may be used by States and school districts to provide or strengthen instruction in STEM fields, including computer science. The Committee recognizes the importance of funding Pre K–12 computer science education to address national security, and ensure American competitiveness. Supporting education in the science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics fields, particularly computer science, is critical to ensure that our nation continues to lead in innovation. As computer science is a basic skill in the 21st century global economy, the Committee encourages the Department to support Pre K–12 computer science education to schools across the country."

NCTL serves on the Title IVA Coalition steering committee and we are working hard to get a higher number in the Senate bill when Congress returns in the fall. Special thanks to Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Carlos Curbelo for securing 102 cosigners to their Dear Colleague seeking full funding for Title IV-A. And many thanks to the 30 senators led by Sens. Tammy Baldwin and Cory Booker and who sent their Dear Colleague in support of full funding for Title IV-A.

4) Title IV-B 21st Century Community Learning Centers

The Committee recommended $1,000,000,000 for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which is $191,673,000 below FY17 and $1,000,000,000 above the FY18 request. This program awards formula grants to States, which in turn distribute funds on a competitive basis to local school districts, nonprofit organizations, and other public entities.The Committee noted that $1,000,000,000 is the level authorized for this program by the ESSA. The Afterschool Alliance is largely responsible for working with Congress in maintaining this funding.

5) Career & Technical Education

The Committee recommended $1,720,686,000 for Career, Technical, and Adult Education programs, which is the same as FY17 and $244,245,000 above the FY18 request.

Maker Education got a shout out but no real funding stream. "The Committee recognizes the need for increased maker education in career and technical education in addition to K–12 curriculum in response to the increasing reliance on tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters, desktop machines, and programs for digital design becoming more affordable. Maker education exposes students to hands on project based learning approaches that build critical skills needed to increase economic growth and encourages students to imagine, create, innovate, and collaborate through the process of manufacturing, testing and demonstrating their ideas. The Committee encourages the expansion of maker-spaces in schools."

The NCTL is a member of the Perkins CTE Coalition seeking reauthorization of this law.

C. INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION SERVICES

The Committee recommended $605,267,000 for the Institute of Education Sciences, which is the same as the FY17 and $11,572,000 below the FY18 request. This account supports education research, statistics, dissemination, evaluation, and assessment activities.

House Labor HHS Report

II. SCIENCE EDUCATION PROGRAMS

The House and Senate Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Committees both approved their versions of the FY19 spending bills.

A. NASA Education & Museum Grant Program

1. Senate Bill

The House CJS Committee recommended $19,871,834,000 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which is $218,534,000 above FY17 which was $19,653,300,000.

The Committee only recommended $90 million for NASA's Office of Education to support several long-standing university programs and $0 for Science Education & Accountability Programs (SEAP). This is $20 million less than FY17 $52,700,000 above the FY18 request. SEAP has traditionally funded both internal (NASA centers) and external (science museums, planetariums) competitive grant programs.

The Committee also recommended $44,000,000 for Science Mission Directorate (SMD)-wide EPO activities. NASA shall, in its FY18 spending plan, allocate these funds proportionally among the SMD divisions, resulting in a dedicated budget line for each division's EPO activities.

2. House Bill

The Senate CJS Committee's recommends $19,529,300,000 for the NASA for FY18, which is $124,000,000 below FY17 and $437,100,000 above the FY18 request.

The Commerce also recommended $100,000,000 for the NASA Office of Education, which is the same level as FY17 and $62,700,000 above the FY18 request.

"The Education account funds STEM education activities to educate and inspire our next generation of explorers and innovators. The Committee does not agree with the proposed cancellation of the activities within Education and has provided funding for the programs for the upcoming fiscal year."

Competitive Program. — The Committee also recommended up to $10,000,000 for the Competitive Program for Science, Museums, Planetariums, and NASA Visitors Centers (CP4SMPVC) within the STEM Education and Accountability Projects (SEAP). This competitive grant program creates interactive exhibits, professional development activities, and community-based programs to engage students, teachers, and the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The earlier Senate subcommittee version had $10M for Science Education & Accountability Program (SEAP) with no mention of Competitive Program. NCTL worked fast and hard along with other ASTC members to secure this provision and insure the Competitive Program received continued funding. This bill still has to go to conference with the House BUT at least our language on the table.

B. NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

1. Senate Bill

The Committee recommended $6,033,645,000 for Research and Related Activities, which is same as FY17 and $671,995,000 above the FY18 request. The Committee does not adopt the Administration�s proposal to reduce Research and Related Activities. The Committee believes that strategic investments in the physical science areas are vitally important for the United States to remain the global leader in innovation, productivity, economic growth, and good-paying jobs for the future.

The Committee also recommended $880,000,000 for Education and Human Resources (EHR), which is the same as fiscal year 2017 and $119,450,000 above the FY18 request. The Committee also called out the following priorities:

  • STEM-focused K–12 schools.—The Committee notes that prior National Research Council and National Science Board reports have encouraged education researchers and policymakers to give increased consideration to STEM-focused K–12 schools as an effective means of increasing STEM literacy. With those reports in mind, the Committee encourages NSF to work within its existing programs to promote opportunities for collaboration between universities or non-profit research institutions and STEM-focused schools serving K–12 students.

  • Advanced Technological Education (ATE).—The recommendation provides no less than the fiscal year 2017 level for the ATE program.

  • STEM education.—NSF shall continue to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants to support STEM education as authorized by the STEM Education Act of 2015 (Public Law 114–59), which emphasizes informal STEM education and defines STEM to include computer science.

  • Computer Information Science and Engineering (CISE).—The Committee supports CISE efforts to work with the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings within Education and Human Resources to build on current efforts to support computer science education in Pre-K–12 classrooms.

2. House Bill

The Senate CJS Committee recommended $7,311,083,000 for the National Science Foundation [NSF]. The recommendation is $161,132,000 below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $658,195,000 above the budget request and noted the following:

  • Informal Science Education.—The Committee maintains its strong support for NSF's informal science education program and provides no less than $62,500,000 for Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL to get level FY17 funding) and $51,880,000 for STEM+C Partnerships. The Committee encourages NSF to coordinate and provide necessary support for investments in both in- and out-of-school time STEM education programs across Federal agencies, including support for extracurricular STEM programs. The Education and Human Resources directorate is further encouraged to continue its NSF-wide efforts to support informal STEM education programs, including leveraging the research directorates to support activities that match their respective content areas.

The House and Senate CJS Committees must reconcile differences in conference when they return from their August recess.

Senate CSJ Report

House CJS Report

The Museum of Science, Boston

  1 Science Park, Boston, MA 02114  phone: 617-723-2500   information@mos.org