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STEM learning in the president’s FY2020 budget proposal

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STEM learning in the president’s FY2020 budget proposal

It’s often said that a budget is a statement of priorities and last week a majority of President Trump’s priorities were laid out through his FY2020 budget proposal. Due to the partial government shutdown earlier this year, it was a full week before all of the details, specifically those of the National Science Foundation (NSF), were laid clear for the public to see. We wrote about the Trump administration’s five-year STEM education strategy when it was released this past December, but despite the plan’s “call to action” for federal agencies to make STEM education and engagement a greater emphasis of their work, the president’s budget presented mixed signals for STEM education, especially for federal agencies like NASA, NOAA, and NSF.

We outlined last week how the president’s budget again has proposed to eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) program, which provides afterschool and summer learning programs to 1.7 million children across the country. Many of these federally funded afterschool and summer programs are where students experience the innovative and engaging STEM learning opportunities that help connect real world experiences to what they learn during the school day. Additionally, the president’s budget proposes the elimination of Title IV Part A (Student Support and Academic Enrichment) and Title II (professional development for teachers) that would impact the availability and quality of afterschool STEM programs for students, respectively.

So how did the president’s budget fair when it came to STEM education, particularly in afterschool and summer?  

Science STEM Education and Engagement sees cuts in budget proposal

Consistent with last year’s budget, the president’s proposal calls for the elimination of NASA’s STEM Engagement office ($110 million) and NOAA’s grants and education office ($276 million), along with a near elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services ($219 million). These proposals are of particular concern to the afterschool field due to the pending partnerships each are undertaking with the Department of Education to provide STEM opportunities in Community Learning Center programs. These efforts are a great example of the inter-agency collaboration that was called for in the federal five-year STEM strategy, and eliminating these offices and agencies would severely impact the scaling of these partnerships.

Additionally, within NSF’s budget, the president has proposed a $3.2 million cut to the Advancing Informal STEM Learning program (AISL). The AISL program has funded many afterschool and summer related projects, including Plum Landing from WGBH and an upcoming convening on measuring and evaluating the impact of afterschool STEM, a partnership between the Afterschool Alliance, National Girls Collaborative, and the University of Washington.

Continued emphasis on STEM and CTE at the Department of Education

The president’s budget proposes no new programs for STEM education, but does continue to place an emphasis on STEM and computer science, which began in 2017 through a presidential memo directing the Secretary of Education to devote at least $200 million of existing funding to STEM education.

In the FY2020 budget proposal, an increase of $170 million was proposed for the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program to bring it to $300 million, with $100 million of that increase going to field-initiated projects to promote innovation in STEM and computer science education. Previously, EIR grants have supported a broad array of education projects that included some STEM. With the remaining $200 million for EIR specified for teacher professional development, the president’s proposal may suggest that the Department is shifting its use of the EIR program from general education projects to a STEM-focused program. For reference, the FY19 enacted budget designated $60 million for STEM and computer science in EIR, out of $130 million total. 

While many programs within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act were cut or eliminated, the president’s budget proposal maintains $1.26 billion in funding for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. In addition to level funding, the president has proposed an increase of $12.6 million to the CTE National Program to support grants aimed at improving the quality and effectiveness of CTE programs. The increase includes a specific mention of support for the Innovation and Modernization grant that focus on STEM and computer science fields. Finally, a 15 percent portion of the proposed increase to the H-1B Visa fee would be directed toward state CTE grants. Due to the limited number of H-1B Visas, the increased revenue generated through this proposal would not add a significant increase to CTE state grants.

What can you do?

A familiar phrase in Washington is, “The president proposes, Congress disposes.” Now that the president’s budget is out, Congress will now begin the appropriation process, meaning outreach to members of Congress is critical in response the president’s proposed cuts to afterschool and summer programs.

Reach out to your policymakers today to let them know how important it is to maintain funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers and the federal funding streams that impact access to afterschool STEM learning in the FY20 budget!

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