FY18 Appropriations Bills: STEM Education

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Publication date: 
14 September 2017
Number: 
123

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are mostly aligned in defending federal programs that support STEM education from deep cuts proposed by the Trump administration for fiscal year 2018.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have advanced spending bills that defend many federal programs supporting STEM education from deep cuts proposed in President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget request. However, the committees diverge on funding for a major Department of Education grant program that can be used to support STEM teacher development.

Below is a summary of selected STEM education-related provisions in the appropriations committee reports that accompany the bills. Links to the full committee reports and tables with program-level funding details are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker. 

Department of Education

The Trump administration proposes to entirely eliminate funding for several grant programs authorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that states can use to support STEM education. These include the $2.1 billion authorized for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants within Title II of ESSA as well as $400 million authorized for Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants and $1.2 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers within Title IV.  

The House report accepts the requested elimination of Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, saying that the “program duplicates activities that may be supported with other funds, has not demonstrated success in contributing to improved teacher quality and makes formula-based allocations to school districts that often are too small to have a meaningful impact on student outcomes.” The House report also recommends $1 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a 16 percent decrease from the current year level, to align with the amount ESSA authorized for the program in fiscal year 2018. However, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) sponsored a successful amendment during floor debate to increase funding for the program by $100 million. The Senate report rejects the proposed zeroing out of these programs, funding both at current levels.

The House report does however include language which stresses the committee’s general support for investments in STEM education:

The Committee recognizes the benefits and advantages of a diverse workforce and encourages the Department of Education to increase diversity in the STEM workforce and pipeline by working to assist small and disadvantaged businesses, minority serving institutions, and underserved communities in developing greater diversity. The Committee supports robust investments in STEM training for teachers, internship opportunities in STEM industries such as biotechnology, and creating clear education pathways in STEM between K–12, community colleges, and four-year institutions.

Both committees reject the proposed elimination of funding for Student Support & Academic Enrichment Grants. The House report proposes a $100 million, 25 percent increase over the fiscal year 2017 level, and underscores that the funds can be used to support Pre K–12 computer science education programs, as computer science is “a basic skill in the 21st century global economy.” The Senate report proposes a more modest $50 million, or 13 percent increase. However, both committees’ proposals fall short of the $1.6 billion ESSA authorized for the program for fiscal year 2018.

Although the administration has consistently highlighted workforce training and development as a priority issue, it requested a 13 percent cut to the department’s Career and Technical Education program. The House and Senate reports propose to maintain funding for that program at the fiscal year 2017 level.

National Science Foundation

Both committees reject the administration’s requested $119 million, 14 percent cut to NSF’s Education and Human Resources Directorate. The House report would maintain the directorate’s funding at the fiscal year 2017 level, while the Senate report would cut it by $18 million, or 2 percent.

The Senate report also explicitly rejects the request to slash funding for several fellowship programs, including the Graduate Research Fellowship Program. The administration proposed to halve the number of new recipients of this fellowship to 1,000.

In addition to specifying funding amounts for several long-standing programs, both provide $15 million for a new Hispanic Serving Institutions program that was first funded by the final appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017.

NASA

Both committees reject the administration’s proposal to shutter NASA’s Office of Education, although the House report would shave $10 million from its budget. Also, the Senate report says that the committee is “not averse to considering funding these activities either within a revised Education directorate or other alternative locations” if NASA determines that doing so would be sensible.

Both committees would also provide the requested $44 million for education activities funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, a 19 percent increase over the current level. The House report directs NASA to allocate the funds “proportionally” among the divisions, and the Senate report supports the Astrophysics Division administering these directorate-wide funds. The final appropriations bills for fiscal year 2017 stipulated that these funds be derived equally from the Astrophysics and Planetary Dvision budgets.

Department of Energy

The House and Senate reports maintain current funding levels for most of the Department of Energy’s STEM education programs, including rejecting the administration’s proposed funding cuts to the Office of Science’s $20 million Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists and the Nuclear Energy Integrated University Program.  

Notably, the Senate report explicitly maintains funding for the $1.2 million Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program, which places K–12 STEM educators in federal science agencies and congressional offices. The administration proposed to eliminate the program. While the House report makes no mention of the fellowship, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) sponsored a successful amendment during floor debate on the bill to ensure the program is funded.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

While both committees rebuff the administration’s request to eliminate the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Education, they diverge on what level it should be funded. The House report would reduce the office’s budget by $8 million, or 29 percent, while the Senate report would maintain it at the current level.

Both committees reject the proposed elimination of the $63 million National Sea Grant Program, although the Senate is more emphatic. After “flatly” rejecting the proposal, the Senate report provides a $2 million increase and lauds the program’s “research, education, extension, and outreach activities, which are critical for coastal communities and benefit the entire nation.”

The Senate report also stresses that “the National Sea Grant Fellowship program serves as a valuable pipeline for our Nation’s future ocean and science and policy experts.” The House report does not include language on Sea Grant but proposes level funding for the program. 

Committee report comparison

Below are a set of expandable tabs which contain excerpts from the explanatory reports that accompany the House and Senate appropriations bills.

Department of Education

STEM Education

Senate: “The Committee recognizes the benefits and advantages of a diverse workforce and encourages the Department of Education to increase diversity in the STEM workforce and pipeline by working to assist small and disadvantaged businesses, minority serving institutions, and underserved communities in developing greater diversity. The Committee supports robust investments in STEM training for teachers, internship opportunities in STEM industries such as biotechnology, and creating clear education pathways in STEM between K–12, community colleges, and four-year institutions.”

Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants

House: “The Committee recommends no funding for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, which is $2,055,830,000 below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and the same as the fiscal year 2018 budget request. This program duplicates activities that may be supported with other funds, has not demonstrated success in contributing to improved teacher quality and makes formula-based allocations to school districts that often are too small to have a meaningful impact on student outcomes.”

Senate: “The Committee recommends $2,055,830,000 for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants. The appropriation for this program primarily supports activities associated with the 2018-2019 academic year. Of the funds provided, $374,389,000 will become available on July 1, 2018, and $1,681,441,000 will become available on October 1, 2018. These funds will remain available for obligation through September 30, 2019.

States and LEAs may use funds for a range of activities related to the certification, recruitment, professional development, and support of teachers and administrators. Activities may include reforming teacher certification and licensure requirements, addressing alternative routes to State certification of teachers, recruiting teachers and principals, and implementing teacher mentoring systems, teacher testing, merit pay, and merit-based performance systems. These funds may also be used by districts to hire teachers to reduce class sizes.

The Committee continues to strongly encourage the Department to issue clear guidance specifically on the importance of strong school leadership, and how States can use existing title II-A resources, including through the optional 3 percent State set-aside, to support principals and school leadership, including examples of best practices.”

21st Century Community Learning Centers

House: “The Committee recommends $1,000,000,000 for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which is $191,673,000 below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1,000,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 budget 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. Funds may be used to provide activities that complement and reinforce the regular school-day program for participating students and may also fund local activities that are included as part of an expanded learning time program. The Committee notes that $1,000,000,000 is the level authorized for this program by the ESSA.”

Senate: “The Committee recommends an appropriation of $1,191,673,000 for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers [21st CCLC] program.

Funds are allocated to States by formula, which in turn, award at least 95 percent of their allocations to LEAs, community-based organizations, and other public and private entities. Grantees use these resources to establish or expand community learning centers that provide activities offering significant extended learning opportunities, such as before- and after-school programs, recreational activities, drug and violence prevention, and family literacy programs for students and related services to their families. Centers must target their services to students who attend schools that are eligible to operate a school-wide program under title I of the ESEA or serve high percentages of students from low-income families.”

Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants

House: “The Committee recommends $500,000,000 for Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) State Grants, which is $100,000,000 above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $500,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 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 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.”

Senate: “The Committee recommendation includes $450,000,000 for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. This program provides formula grants to States, which then sub-grant to LEAs, to help support activities to provide students with a well-rounded education, ensure safe and supportive learning environments, and use technology to improve instruction.”

Career and Technical Education

House: "The Committee recommends $1,117,598,000 for Career and Technical Education: State Grants, which is the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $168,099,000 above the fiscal year 2018 budget request. Funds are made available for obligation on October 1, 2018.

State Grants support a variety of career and technical education programs developed in accordance with the State plan. The Act focuses Federal resources on institutions with high concentrations of low-income students. The populations assisted by State Grants range from secondary students in pre-vocational courses to adults who need retraining to adapt to changing technological and labor markets. Funding for State Grants will continue support for state-of-the art career and technical training to approximately 6 million students in secondary schools and more than 4 million students in community and technical colleges.”

“The Committee recommends $7,421,000 for National Programs, which is the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $19,986,000 below the fiscal year 2018 budget request. This authority supports the conduct and dissemination of research in career and technical education. It also includes support for the National Centers for Research and Dissemination in Career and Technical Education and other discretionary research.”

Senate: “The Committee recommends $1,125,019,000 for the Career and Technical Education [CTE] account.
The Committee recommends $1,117,598,000 for CTE State grants. Funds provided under the State grant program assist States, localities, and outlying areas to expand and improve their CTE program and help ensure equal access to CTE for populations with special needs. Persons assisted range from secondary students in prevocational courses through adults who need retraining to adapt to changing technological and labor market conditions. Funds are distributed according to a formula based on State population and State per capita income. “

“The Committee recommends $7,421,000 to support research, development, demonstration, dissemination, evaluation, and assessment of activities aimed at improving the quality and effectiveness of CTE.”

Minority Science and Engineering Improvement

House: “The Committee recommends $9,648,000 for the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program, which is the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $18,000 above the fiscal year 2018 budget request. This program awards grants to improve mathematics, science, and engineering programs at institutions serving primarily minority students and to increase the number of minority students who pursue advanced degrees and careers in those fields.”

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.”

National Science Foundation

Scholarships and fellowships

Senate: “The Committee does not adopt the proposed funding reductions for the NSF Scholarships in STEM, Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, or the Graduate Research Fellowship and instead provides the fiscal year 2017 funding level for these programs.”

Hispanic Serving Institutions program

House: “Over the past several years, this Committee has encouraged NSF to create a program within EHR to focus on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). Such a program was authorized by section 7033 of the America COMPETES Act (Public Law 110–69). The Committee reminds NSF that language was included in Public Law 115–31, the fiscal year 2017 appropriations Act, directing NSF to establish such an HSI program at no less than $15,000,000. The Committee provides the same level of funding for fiscal year 2018 and encourages NSF to use this program to build capacity at institutions of higher education that typically do not receive high levels of NSF funding. NSF shall provide a report on this program no later than 120 days after enactment of this Act that demonstrates such an investment no later than September 30, 2018.”

Senate: “Hispanic Americans continue to be underrepresented in science and engineering disciplines. The Committee provides $15,000,000 as authorized under 42 U.S.C. 1862o–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.”

STEM-focused K–12 schools

House: “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.”

Informal science education

Senate: “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 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.”

NASA

Science Mission Directorate education activities

House: “The recommendation includes $44,000,000 for Science Mission Directorate (SMD)-wide EPO activities. NASA shall, in the fiscal year 2018 spending plan, allocate these funds proportionally among the SMD divisions, resulting in a dedicated budget line for each division’s EPO activities.”

Senate: “The Committee provides no less than $44,000,000 for education as reflected in a more transparent single line within the SMD funding chart. The Committee supports the recommendation that the Astrophysics program administer this SMD-wide education funding. The Committee encourages SMD-funded investigators to be directly involved in outreach and education efforts. NASA should continue to prioritize funding for on-going education efforts linked directly to its science missions.”

Assessment of the Office of Education

House: “The Committee understands that the Office of Education is undergoing a series of internal reviews and assessments; NASA shall brief the Committee when these assessments are concluded. The Committee expects NASA to continue implementing the programs below and to ensure that overhead costs to support these programs do not exceed five percent.”

Senate: “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. However, if NASA determines that the programs would be better managed, executed, and evaluated in other places within NASA, the Committee is not averse to considering funding these activities either within a revised Education directorate or other alternative locations. The Committee directs NASA to use fiscal year 2018 to review the Education Mission Directorate, along with its other education-related activities, in order to inform the appropriate location and activities NASA should undertake in future years. As part of this activity, NASA is directed to consider maintaining administrative costs at no more than five percent and provide the Committee a report on the results of this comprehensive review not less than 90 days from enactment of this Act. The funds provided are to ensure continuity in the ongoing programs as NASA evaluates its role in STEM education and development of students in science and engineering fields.”

Space Grant program

House: “The recommendation includes $40,000,000 for the Space Grant program. This amount shall be allocated to State consortia for competitively awarded grants in support of local, regional, and national STEM needs.”


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.”

Competitive program

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.”

Space law

Senate: “As the civilian space market continues to grow and national policies are developed for remote sensing and commercial space launches for cargo and crew, there is an increasing need for education on the legal aspects of human use of aerospace technologies. To encourage legal research in this area, the Committee provides up to $1,000,000 for space law education and outreach. NASA shall provide a spending plan to the Committee within 45 days of enactment of this act on how NASA will implement this direction.”

Department of Energy

Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists Program

Senate: “The Committee recommends $19,500,000 for Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists. Within available funds, $8,300,000 is for the Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship; $1,000,000 is for the Community College Institute of Science and Technology; $2,500,000 is for the Graduate Student Research Program; $1,700,000 is for the Visiting Faculty Program; $1,200,000 is for the Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship; $2,900,000 is for the National Science Bowl; $750,000 is for Technology Development and Online Application; $600,000 is for Evaluation Studies; $500,000 is for Outreach; and $50,000 is for the Laboratory Equipment Donation Program.”

Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship Program

Senate: “Further, the Committee recommends $10,000,000 for the Computational Sciences Graduate Program.”

Nuclear Energy Integrated University Program

House: “The Committee recommends $5,000,000 to continue the Integrated University Program, which is critical to ensuring the nation’s nuclear science and engineering workforce in future years.”

Senate: “The Committee recommends $5,000,000 for the Integrated University Program. The Committee notes the administration repeatedly attempts to defund this program, despite continued success in developing highly qualified nuclear specialists to meet national needs.”

NNSA Academic Alliances & Partnerships

House: “The recommendation includes $18,832,000 for the Minority Serving Institution Partnerships Program, including funding for Tribal Colleges and Universities.”

Senate: “Within available funds, not less than $2,000,000 shall be for Tribal Colleges and Universities.”

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Office of Education

House: “The Committee includes $19,181,000 for NOAA’s Office of Education. Of this amount, $14,431,000 is provided to continue the Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions, and $3,750,000 is provided to continue the Bay-Watershed Education and Training (B–WET) regional programs. Within the amounts provided for the Education Program Base, $1,000,000 shall support all levels of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education engaging a diverse set of students in ocean-going expeditions with live interactive programming and telepresence technology.”

Senate: “The Committee rejects the proposal to eliminate NOAA’s Office of Education. Within the funds provided for NOAA’s grants, which includes continued support for Environmental Literacy Grants and for improving geographic literacy; $14,500,000 is for the Educational Partnership Program with minority-serving institutions; and $7,500,000 is for Bay-Watershed Education and Training regional programs.”

Sea Grant program

Senate: “The Committee flatly rejects the administration’s proposed elimination of NOAA’s Sea Grant program. Instead, the Committee provides an increase of $2,000,000 above the fiscal year 2017 enacted amount for Sea Grant and its research, education, extension, and outreach activities, which are critical for coastal communities and benefit the entire nation. … In addition, the Committee directs NOAA to continue funding all Sea Grant STEM education and fellowship programs.”

“NOAA’s Sea Grant is reminded that the Committee’s broad support is due to the program’s historically objective standards, State-driven goals, and non-partisan priorities. Within NOAA’s Sea Grant program, the National Sea Grant Fellowship program serves as a valuable pipeline for our Nation’s future ocean science and policy experts. The Fellowship program should remain objective and apolitical, and should increase its efforts to recruit qualified, non-partisan candidates who are committed to working on oceans and coastal issues for any Member of Congress, regardless of political affiliation.”

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