Policies impacting afterschool STEM

Get to know current legislation and take action!

With science and technology being key drivers of economic growth, strengthening STEM education is a national priority. Educate yourself about policies and legislation that can support afterschool STEM learning.

On this page you can learn about policies and legislation that impact afterschool STEM learning. You will find the latest list of STEM bills we are following, big initiatives that are driving policy and an archive of reports and policy recommendations frequently referenced by policy makers. If you would like to become an advocate for afterschool STEM learning when you have read through this material, please go to the Afterschool STEM Hub where you will not only find messaging resources but also targeted advocacy materials you can use to contact policymakers.

Current administrative priorities

Since taking office, the Trump administration has taken a few actions that shed light on their position on STEM education. These actions serve as guiding principles for how federal agencies, such as the Department of Education and Department of Labor, will prioritize their resources. Congress does not contribute to the articulation of these priorities.

On September 25, 2017, the White House released a Presidential Memorandum, "Increasing Access to High-Quality Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education," acknowledging that too many kids lack access to high-quality STEM and computer science (CS) education opportunities. The memo directs the Department of Education to prioritize STEM education efforts in federal grant making, with particular emphasis on CS. To this end, the Secretary of Education is directed to reallocate at least $200 million of existing funds each year toward CS and STEM education and teacher recruitment and training, beginning in FY18. Read more about the memorandum here. While the Trump administration proposed their own budgetary recommendations to meet this funding goal, Congress had a different plan for their FY18 agreement. It remains to be seen how the $200 million commitment will be met.

On June 15, 2017, the administration released a Presidential Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeships in America, which states that it is "the policy of the federal government to provide more affordable pathways to secure, high-paying jobs by promoting apprenticeships and effective workforce development programs, while easing the regulatory burden on such programs and reducing or eliminating taxpayer support for ineffective workforce development programs." Among its provisions, it establishes the Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion within the Department of Labor, which includes a subcommittee looking into opportunities in the middle school grade ranch and mechanisms for engaging all relevant stakeholders, including families, parent-teacher associations, informal educators, etc. The subcommittees will be provide recommendations to the full taskforce.

On March 2, 2018 the agency released their 11 final priorities, along with a discussion of the feedback received during a public commenting period. Priority 6 is "promoting STEM education, with a particular focus on computer science." The department did not agree to a request that the priority explicitly mention out-of-school settings (e.g., before school, after school, summer) as an opportunity to engage students in STEM and computer science, and notes "… nothing in Priority 6 precludes STEM and computer science teaching and learning during out-of-school time or that focuses on CTE."

Background on federal and state policy

As of 2015, the ESSA is our national K-12 education law, which provides guidelines for how states may use federal dollars to support education programs, and offers multiple funding streams that states and districts can employ to support improvements in STEM education. Three Titles in particular are very important for afterschool and summer learning:

  • Title I, which focuses on providing supplemental funds to schools in poverty and assisting children of low-income communities
  • Title II, which aims to increase the effectiveness of educators throughout their teaching career
  • Title IV, which includes both the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAE) in Part A and the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21CCLC) initiative in Part B

Take the next steps

ESSA provides tremendous opportunity to elevate the importance of afterschool and summer learning programs with key audiences and secure additional out-of-school time resources. Understand which parts of the law have the most potential to support afterschool STEM learning; often, school administrators and even state legislators need to be reminded of the specifics on how federal dollars can be used and leveraged. Advocate for your state or district to take advantages of those allowances in their education plans and during implementation.

Perkins CTE is the principle source of federal funding to states to improve secondary and postsecondary career and technical education and to fully support the academic, career, and technical skills of secondary and postsecondary students who elect to enroll in career and technical education programs. The current law allows supports to serve students in the 7th grade and above, and many states use early exposure to careers and job pathways in middle grades as a key component of their CTE programs. This exploration as well as direct workforce training occurs in afterschool and summer programs across the nation.

Take the next steps

CTE funds at the state level are largely spent on supports dedicated to formal learning. However, the current Perkins CTE law does not explicitly prohibit the use of funds or resources in afterschool and summer programs, or exclude community-based organizations from serving as eligible entities and partners. Use this knowledge to educate CTE stakeholders that Perkins funds can be used to support career exploration and workforce development in afterschool and summer programs.

Many federal policies play important and complementary roles in shaping the nation's education system, in addition to ESSA and Perkins CTE (described previously). The Higher Education Act (HEA) establishes important postsecondary student financial aid programs, provides systems for early identification and support for secondary students' transition to postsecondary opportunities, dictates funding streams for institutions of higher education, and establishes oversight for K-12 teacher preparation programs and quality teacher training. The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) provides federal funding for the education of children with disabilities while also serving as a civil rights statute protecting the rights of parents and children with disabilities. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funds the matching of labor market needs with education, training, and support services for youth and adults looking for meaningful employment, as well as adult education, and literacy activities for out-of-school youth and adults who lack a high school diploma or proficiency in English. Other laws and regulations, like the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA) set regulations and requirements for federally funded research, including that on the STEM education, can also affect opportunities for education stakeholders. All of policies influence state and local education strategies and have the potential touch afterschool and summer learning programs.

Take the next steps

ESSA, IDEA, Perkins, HEA, WIOA, and other policies and regulations can all support a rich STEM learning ecosystem that provides individuals with the academic, technical, and employability skills they need to be successful in their futures. An understanding of how each of these policies impact the education system is useful when thinking about innovative ways to support 21st century skills development, postsecondary education preparedness, and a career-ready workforce.

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.

Date Title

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Afterschool STEM Hub Position Statement on Computer Science (October 2017)

Policy recommendations to grow computer science education in afterschool, developed by the Afterschool STEM Hub, a collaboration of national leaders and stakeholders.


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.