The American Institute of Physics was among over 50 organizations, including the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Geophysical Union, APS Physics, and The Optical Society which supported an amendment, introduced by Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) restoring $51 million in proposed cuts to the FY 2013 budget for the Mathematics and Science Partnerships (MSP) program at the Department of Education. The MSP program is the only Department of Education program specifically aimed at enhancing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teacher training and content knowledge.
Proposed MSP program funding had been cut by $51 million from the current level by the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, reducing the funding level from $150 million to $99 million. The $158.8 billion bill passed out of the subcommittee by a vote of 10 – 7 along party lines.
Senators on both sides of the aisle were opposed to cuts to the MSP program. The leadership of the Appropriations Committee included Shelby’s amendment to restore funding to $150 million, the same level as FY 2012. The funding restored for the MSP program corresponds with an equal reduction to the Race to the Top program. However, the Race to the Top program will receive the same funding of $549 million, as it did in FY 2012. The final bill was approved by the full Appropriations Committee.
It appears that the $51 million potential cut was an attempt to allow the MSP program to move from the current formula grant system, where each state receives proportionate funding, to a competitive grant system where each state would compete for grant money. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act contains a provision that stipulates that if MSP program funding drops below $100 million, the funding for that program would be distributed on a competitive rather than formula basis. Under a competitive grant system, the value of each grant would be higher but the number of grants awarded would be lower, likely approximately 10-12 grants would be issued. Management of the competitive grant process would fall to the Department of Education, which would have more control over the issuing of the grants. Under a formula grants system, each of the 50 states would receive funding for STEM-related teacher training.
While the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended in their report that the MSP program receive $150 million in funding, the FY 2013 request from President Obama included no funds for this program. The President’s FY 2013 request did include funding for the Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM school improvement program as well as an increase of $324 million for the Race to the Top program. Those programs each operate under a competitive grant system. The Committee recommended no funding for the Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM program and no increase in funding for the Race to the Top program.
The Senate Appropriations Committee Report for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies includes recommendations for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs:
“Mathematics and Science Partnerships
“The Committee recommends $149,716,000, the same as the comparable fiscal year 2012 level, for the mathematics and science partnerships program. The [Administration’s] budget request does not include any funding for this [MSP] program but instead proposes $149,716,000 for a new Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM program.
“The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) requires that when the appropriation for this program is higher than $100,000,000, the funds are to be distributed to States by formula. The Committee has been concerned that at recent appropriations levels, this funding has been spread too thinly among the States to make a significant impact.
“At the recommended funding level, the ESEA requires the Department to make competitive awards to eligible partnerships, which must include an engineering, math, or science department of an institution of higher learning and a high-need [Local Education Agencies] LEA. Partnerships will seek to improve the performance of students in the areas of math and science, including engineering, by bringing math and science teachers in elementary and secondary schools together with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to increase the teachers' subject-matter knowledge and improve their teaching skills.
“The Committee notes that it is including additional resources under [the Frontiers in Education Agency] FIE to create a new, evidence-based grant competition jointly administered by the Department and NSF that will focus on developing, evaluating, and scaling-up effective practices that can help increase student achievement in mathematics, and for related activities.
“Effective Teaching and Learning: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics
“The Committee recommends no funds for the proposed Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM program. The budget request is $149,716,000. Activities supported under this proposed program are instead funded under current law.
“The Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM would provide competitive grants to [State Education Agencies] SEAs, or SEAs in partnership with appropriate outside entities, to support State and local efforts to implement a comprehensive strategy for the provision of high-quality STEM instruction and support to students from preschool through grade 12.
“Fund for the Improvement of Education
“The Committee recommends an appropriation of $85,735,000 for FIE. The fiscal year 2012 appropriation is $65,775,000 and the budget request is $36,276,000 for this purpose.
“The Committee recommendation also includes $19,235,000 for a new STEM initiative. A portion of these funds will be used jointly with funds provided to NSF for a program using a tiered-evidence model, similar to the Investing in Innovation program, that seeks to develop, evaluate, and scale-up proven practices that can help improve teaching and learning in mathematics. Another portion of the funds for this initiative will be used for STEM-related activities at IES to improve the evidence base for STEM programs across the Federal Government; this portion may also be used for providing technical assistance to other Federal agencies and the field to improve evaluations.”