National & State STEM Policy

Get to know current legislation and take action!

With science and technology certain to drive future growth, strengthening STEM education has become a national priority. Now is the time for afterschool advocates to make our case and help policy makers recognize the value of out-of-school time to engage youth with STEM.

On this page you can find what you need to know to be an effective advocate for afterschool STEM learning. Below you will find key legislation and iniatives where afterschool STEM has the opportunity to gain funding and support. You'll also find the latest list of STEM bills we are following and an archive of reports and policy recommendations frequently referenced by policy makers.

Key legislation and initiatives

  • Key federal legislation currently up for reauthorization includes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which contains the 21st Century Community Learning Center program, the single largest federal funding source dedicated to afterschool. Also up for reauthorization is the America COMPETES Act, which provides funding to various agencies to promote stronger STEM education.
  • Current White House initiatives concerning informal STEM education include Educate to Innovate, which aims to improve student participation in STEM; Race to the Top, a funding competition designed to spur innovation in education; and the Investing in Innovation Fund, which was recently expanded to offer grants specifically targeting STEM learning.
  • At the state level, the National Governors Association provides resources to advance state STEM education agendas, including a helpful brief on why states should include informal science in STEM education policy.

Important policy documents

These reports and documents are helpful reference points for understanding federal policy and iniatives. They are used by policy makers to write legislation and to justify funding levels for certain programs.

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The Case for Investing in Out-of-School Learning as a Core Strategy in Improving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education (April 2016)

Author: STEM Ed Coalition

Exposure to formal and informal learning in STEM subjects, beginning at an early age and continuing through high school, prepares our nation’s students for the future ahead.  Supporting quality science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education for all children and youth is therefore vital to our country’s social and economic prosperity. This paper, written for policymakers and education leaders, makes a strong case for why informal and afterschool learning must be an integral part of policies to improve STEM education across the board.


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Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education 5-Year Strategic Plan (May 2013)

The Committee on STEM Education is an inter-agency committee created by the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010 and tasked with looking at Federal investments in STEM Education to strengthen America's historic strengths in STEM fields and grow the STEM workforce.  Included in the goals and recommendations are investments in informal STEM education at the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation and the Smithsonian Institution.  In this report, the Smithsonian was suggested as a hub for informal STEM education in the Federal government.

Federal Policy STEM


Afterschool programs as partners in STEM education: Policy recommendations (October 2012)

Afterschool programs all around the nation are engaging children in hands-on STEM programs and getting them excited about STEM fields and careers. These policy recommendations aim to help afterschool programs reach their maximum potential and become integral partners in addressing the nations STEM education needs.

Advocacy Federal Policy STEM State Policy


STEM Education: Strategic planning needed to better manage overlapping programs across multiple agencies, a GAO Report (2012)

In this intitial report from the US Government Accountability Office, all Federal STEM programs were surveyed to find overlapping programs and areas for collaboration between programs or agencies.  Since this report agencies have begun voluntary, inter-agency consolidation and collaboration to better improve the efficiency of STEM programs. 



The Changing Federal STEM Education Effort

This document from the Congressional Research Service outlines efforts by the Federal agencies to reorganize STEM programs and reduce the total number in order to increase efficiency.



The Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education Portfolio (December 2011)

This report details the results of the initial Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM) inventory of Federal STEM education investments. The Fast-Track Action Committee on Federal Investment in STEM Education was chartered to develop the inventory process, analyze the inventory results, and draft the inventory report with the oversight of the CoSTEM.