The annual spending law for FY 2016 modestly increases funding for the Department of Education and National Science Foundation, but the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education programs within the Department and Foundation are getting mostly flat funding
On Dec. 18, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the final FY 2016 annual spending bill. As FYI reported last Wednesday, the law appropriates $1.15 trillion in discretionary spending obligations and finalizes funding levels for the nation’s major science agencies, offices and programs through the end of September 2016, including for the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs at the Department of Education (DOE) and National Science Foundation (NSF).
Congress’ guidance for DOE spending can be found on pages 70-80 of the bill’s joint explanatory statement, and guidance for NSF’s STEM program can be found on page 32 of the joint explanatory statement.
|Department / Agency / Directorate / Program||FY14 enacted||FY15 enacted||FY16 President's request||FY16 enacted||Change between FY15 and FY16|
|Department of Education||67,300.0||70,470.0||74,138.0||71,698.0||1.7%|
|Math and Science Partnerships||149.7||152.7||202.7||152.7||0.0%|
|Minority Science & Engineering Improvement||9.0||9.0||9.0||9.0||0.0%|
|National Science Foundation||7,131.4||7,344.2||7,723.6||7,463.5||1.6%|
|Education & Human Resources||832.0||866.0||962.6||880.0||1.6%|
|Advancing Informal STEM Learning||54.8||55.0||60.0||62.5||13.6%|
|STEM + Computing Partnerships||57.4||57.1||51.9||51.9||-9.1%|
|Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation||45.5||46.0||46.0||46.0||0.0%|
|Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships||62.6||60.9||60.9||60.9||0.0%|
|* Figures in millions of U.S dollars|
As the table above shows, DOE is receiving a 1.7 percent increase in spending between FY 2015 and FY 2016, and NSF is seeing a similar 1.6 percent increase. Within that amount, STEM education programs at the Department and Foundation are largely being flat funded year-over-year, with the exception of a major 13.6 percent increase for Advancing Informal STEM Learning and a 9.1 percent decrease for the STEM + Computing Partnerships program. The Advancing Informal STEM Learning program seeks to advance new approaches to STEM learning for the public in informal environments, including in media, science centers and museums, and youth, community, and out of school time programs.
The steady year-over-year funding for STEM education initiatives clocks in lower than the 5.2 percent increase in overall federal discretionary spending in FY 2016, an indication that STEM education was not a winner in the annual budget process this year. As FYI reported, however STEM education did receive a boost this year from the authorization of several new funding streams and a new STEM master teacher corps in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA is the new reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act governing federal oversight of K-12 schools that President Obama signed into law earlier this month.
ESSA notably did not reauthorize the DOE’s Mathematics and Science Partnerships (MSP) program, which “funds collaborative partnerships between STEM departments at institutions of higher education and high-need school districts.” However, the MSP program is still receiving funding in the FY 2016 spending bill, which means it will continue to exist through at least 2016. While the House report had proposed to eliminate MSP, the final spending bill’s explanatory statement reinstated the program at a level of funding equal to its FY 2015 level.