FY17 Appropriations Bills: STEM Education

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Publication date: 
1 August 2016

NSF’s education programs would see steady funding under current spending bills, while the Department of Education’s STEM programs are undergoing major statutory realignment, leading to disagreement between the president, House, and Senate on the best level of support.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have completed work on two fiscal year 2017 spending bills that fund federal STEM education programs at the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, and NASA: the Labor-Health & Human Services-Education appropriations bill that funds DOEd, and the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill that funds NSF and NASA. While neither full chamber has yet passed these bills, both committees have approved reports that provide policy guidance and detailed spending proposals for the STEM education programs.

The House appropriators’ proposals and explanatory language for DOEd begin on page 118 of the House Labor-HHS-Education committee report, the NSF education section begins on page 70 of the House CJS report, and the NASA education section begins on page 65 of the same report. The DOEd section of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education committee report begins on page 165 while the NSF education section of the Senate CJS report begins on page 117. The NASA education section is on page 110 of the same report.

The below table compares the House and Senate spending proposals for STEM education, based on the figures in the committee reports. Additional details are available in AIP’s Federal Science Budget Tracker.

FY17 STEM Education Appropriations Summary Table

Funding Line FY16
House Change
Senate Change
NSF Education & Human Resources 880 899 2.1% 880 0.0% 880 0.0%
Graduate Research Fellowship1 332 332 0.1% - - - -
Improving Undergraduate STEM Education1 105 109 3.8% - - - -
Research Experiences for Undergraduates2 75 76 0.2% - - - -
Discovery Research PreK-12 83 83 0.0% - - - -
Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarships 61 61 0.0%     61 0.0%
NSF Research Traineeship1 54 59 8.3% - - - -
STEM + Computing Partnerships1 64 34* -47.6% - - 52 -19.4%
Advancing Informal STEM Learning 63 55* -12.0% - - 63 0.0%
Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation 46 46 0.0% 46 0.0% 46 0.0%
Historically Black Colleges & Universities Program 35 35 0.0% 35 0.0% 35 0.0%
Tribal Colleges & Universities Program 14 14 0.0% 14 0.0% 14 0.0%
Hispanic Serving Institutions Program - - - 30 - 5 -
INCLUDES1 15.5 16 3.2% - - - -
Department of Education              
Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants - 500 - 1,000 - 300 -
Mathematics & Science Partnerships 153 0 -100% 0 -100% 0 -100%
STEM Master Teacher Corps - 10 - 0 - 0 -
Minority Science & Engineering Improvement 10 10 0.0% 10 0.0% 10 0.0%
NASA Education 115 100 -13.0% 115 0.0% 108 -6.1%

* Excludes $54 million in proposed mandatory spending for NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate, $30 million of which is for the STEM + Computing Partnerships program and $7.5 million for the Advancing Informal STEM Learning program.

** All figures are in millions of nominal U.S. dollars and are rounded to the nearest million. The percentages are calculated based on the unrounded figures.

1. Part of the funding for this program comes from NSF's research directorates.

2. All of the funding for this program comes from NSF's research directorates.

NSF education on track for steady funding, while level of support for DOEd STEM in limbo

In their committee reports, House and Senate appropriators both hold funding steady at $880 million in fiscal year 2017 for NSF’s Education and Human Resources (EHR) directorate, which focuses on STEM education and early career support for researchers. This funding level is slightly less generous than that of the administration, which requested a $19 million or 2.1 percent increase. EHR funds the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowships and a wide range of STEM education, research, and broadening participation programs.

Meanwhile, DOEd, as a whole as well as its STEM education programs, is undergoing a major realignment, as part of the ongoing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that became law in December 2015. While ESSA eliminated the longstanding Math and Science Partnerships (MSP) program that awarded STEM education grants to schools, it also authorized a new STEM Master Teacher Corps, which aims to identify outstanding K-12 STEM teachers across the country and empower them to broaden their reach, by sharing best practices, leading professional development, and mentoring younger teachers.

Although a highly anticipated authorization in the ESSA law, the STEM Master Teacher Corps will be much smaller than the MSP program. The administration is requesting $10 million for the corps in fiscal year 2017, and the House and Senate zero out the program in their committee reports, putting its start in jeopardy.

However, states will receive major blocks of funding through ESSA Title II (focused on teacher instruction) and Title IV grants (which includes Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants), which states may choose to spend on a number of STEM education programs, initiatives, and even specialty schools, among many other non-STEM-related priorities. Authorized uses of Title IV funds include improving instruction and student engagement in STEM, expanding STEM courses, paying for the participation of students in STEM nonprofit competitions, providing experiential learning opportunities in STEM, integrating other academic subjects into STEM subject programs, creating STEM specialty schools, and integrating classroom-based, afterschool, and informal STEM instruction.

The president, House and Senate are far from agreement on the appropriate level of funds the states should receive. The Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants program was authorized at a $1.65 billion level in ESSA, and House appropriators included $1 billion in their bill, twice as much as the administration requested. The Senate opts for a much lower $300 million, $200 million less than even the administration request. These wide-ranging figures will need to be reconciled in conference.

Overall, funding for the Department of Education is set to drop slightly this year, with the House appropriators proposing a 2.2 percent cut to the agency and the Senate appropriators recommending a 0.7 percent cut. NASA Education may also see a cut, with the Senate report calling for $7 million less and the House report opting for steady funding.

Side-by-side comparison of House and Senate committee reports

Below is a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports for the major STEM education programs funded in the House and Senate bills.

Department of Education

Title IV: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants

House: “The Committee recommends $1,000,000,000 for Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) State Grants, which is $500,000,000 above the fiscal year 2017 budget request. The ESSA eliminated several narrowly-focused competitive grant programs and replaced them with this new formula grant program. States and school districts have flexibility to focus these resources on locally-determined priorities to provide students with access to a well-rounded education, including rigorous coursework, and to improve school conditions and the use of technology. The Committee does not include bill language proposed in the budget request to allow States to make subgrants to school districts on a competitive basis.”

Senate: “The Committee notes that funds available under this program may be used for local activities that may include programs that build skills in STEM, including computer science, and that foster innovation in learning by supporting nontraditional STEM education teaching methods. The Committee believes that such activities, including robotics competitions through partnerships with local schools and nonprofit organizations, will help further engage and inspire students to pursue further study or careers in STEM.”

Mathematics and Science Partnerships

House: “The Committee recommends no funding for Mathematics and Science Partnerships, which is $152,717,000 below the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and the same as the fiscal year 2017 budget request. The ESSA eliminated the authorization for this program.”

Senate: “The Committee recommendation does not include funding for Mathematics and Science Partnerships. ESSA eliminated this program and consolidated the funding into a new Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program. The Committee recommendation is consistent with this consolidation.”

STEM Master Teacher Corps

House: “The Committee recommends no funding for STEM Master Teacher Corps. The fiscal year 2017 budget request includes $10,000,000 for this new program that would support State efforts to identify and retain STEM teachers. The Committee has included funding elsewhere in this bill to support teacher preparation and retention.”

Senate: “The Committee recommendation does not include funding for the STEM Master Teacher Corps program, a new program authorized in ESSA.”

STEM and Computer Science Education

House: “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. Additionally, the Committee directs the Department to announce the grant competitions and award the grants for this program in a timely manner, as well as provide sufficient time for grantees to prepare their applications.”

Senate: “The Committee recommendation does not include funding for Computer Science for All Development Grants, a new, unauthorized program. However, the Committee notes the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program authorizes a range of activities to support well-rounded educational opportunities including computer science.”

Minority Science and Engineering Improvement

Senate: “The Committee recommends $9,648,000 for the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement program. Funds are used to provide discretionary grants to institutions with minority enrollments greater than 50 percent to purchase equipment, develop curricula, and support advanced faculty training. Grants are intended to improve science and engineering education programs and increase the number of minority students in the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering.”

NSF Education and Human Resources

Robert Noyce Scholarship Program

Senate: “The Committee provides the budget request level of $60,890,000 for the Robert Noyce Scholarship program to help fill the critical need for STEM teachers in elementary and secondary schools.”

Informal Science Education

Senate: “The Committee maintains its strong support for NSF’s informal science education program and supports the requested levels of $62,500,000 for Advancing Informal STEM Learning and $51,880,000 for STEM+C Partnerships. The Committee encourages the 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.”

Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings

Senate: “As part of the research funded through the Division of Research on Learning, the Committee recognizes the importance of out-of-school time STEM mentor-led engagement programs, including STEM networks, festivals, and competitions. Such programs are highly effective in filling the higher education STEM pipeline. The Committee urges NSF to focus on populations underrepresented in the STEM fields and encourages NSF to fund out-of-school time STEM engagement program activities."

Broadening Participation in STEM

House: “To broaden the participation of underrepresented populations in STEM education programs and, ultimately, the STEM workforce, the recommendation provides no less than $35,000,000 for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program; $46,000,000 for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation; and $14,000,000 for the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program.”

Senate: “The Committee continues its longstanding support for existing initiatives to broaden participation in STEM fields and recognizes these programs have various purposes and engage students in a different manner. The Committee notes that support for these programs has stagnated within NSF in spite of increases to the overall NSF budget. The Committee recommends $35,000,000 for the Historically Black Colleges and Universities [HBCUs] Undergraduate Program, $8,000,000 for the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, $46,000,000 for the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, $14,000,000 for the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, and $24,000,000 for Centers for Research Excellence in Science and Technology. In proposal selection, the Committee encourages NSF to give priority to grant proposals that have demonstrated maturity, including previous partnerships with other Federal agencies.”

Hispanic-Serving Institutions

House: “In addition, over the past several years, this Committee has asked NSF to consider creating a program within EHR to focus on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). Such a program was authorized in the America COMPETES Act of 2010. The Committee directs NSF to establish an HSI-specific program no later than 120 days after enactment of this Act and demonstrate a $30,000,000 investment no later than September 30, 2017.”

Senate: “Investment in STEM education is vital for American economic competitiveness, and Hispanic Americans are underrepresented in science and engineering disciplines. The Committee provides $5,000,000 as authorized under 42 U.S.C. 1862–12 for NSF to implement an HSI Program that is designed to increase the recruitment, retention, and graduation rates of Hispanic students pursuing associate or baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields.”

NASA Education

Administrative Overhead

House: “The Committee is concerned that despite direction in Public Law 114–113, overhead costs remain excessive. To ensure that the program is operating efficiently with minimum overhead, NASA shall provide a report to the Committee within 180 days of enactment that analyzes how funds have been spent over the last three fiscal years, to include 1) a list of cooperative agreements, Space Act Agreements, and grantees, including the amount and purpose of grant or funding allocation; and 2) a complete description, including amounts and purposes, of how remaining funds have been spent. This analysis shall also include a plan to ensure that no more than five percent overhead is charged within the Education account by fiscal year 2018.”

Space Grant

House: “The recommendation includes $40,000,000 for the Space Grant program, which is the same as fiscal year 2016. These funds shall be allocated to the consortia lead institutions in all 52 participating jurisdictions according to the percentage allocation provided to States in the current five year grant award period.”

Senate: “The Committee provides $40,000,000 for Space Grant, and directs NASA to support an extension of the current Space Grant program, and to allocate the entire funding amount for consortia-led institutions in all 52 participating jurisdictions according to the percentage allocation provided to States in the current 5-year grant award.”

Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR)

House: "The recommendation includes $18,000,000 for EPSCoR, which is the same as fiscal year 2016.”

Competitive Program for Science, Museums, Planetariums and Visitors Centers

Senate: “The Committee provides up to $10,000,000 for the Competitive Program for Science, Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitors Centers within the STEM Education and Accountability Projects. 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.”


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