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FY21 budget request looks familiar when it comes to STEM education

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FY21 budget request looks familiar when it comes to STEM education

It’s been over a year since the Trump administration released their five-year STEM Education strategy, and in that time, appropriations for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, National Science Foundation, NASA, and other federal agencies have grown with the support of Congress. This growth has come despite repeated attempts by the administration to cut or eliminate the majority of programs supporting STEM education and engagement across the federal government. The president’s FY21 request, submitted February 10, offered little in the way of new investments in STEM education.  

So what’s changed in this year’s budget request? We wrote about how the president’s budget request eliminates afterschool funding in the 21st Century Community Learning Center program for the fourth straight year, albeit in a different way than in previous years. But as far as STEM goes, this year’s request remains similar to other budget requests. Even with the administration’s five-year STEM education strategy calling for greater coordination and expansion of STEM education opportunities across federal agencies, the last two budget requests since that plan was published submitted have fallen short of this call.

More of the same in the way of cuts for NASA and STEM education

Consistent with previous budgets, the president’s proposal calls for the elimination of NASA’s STEM Engagement office ($120 million) and a near elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, with only $23 million proposed for IMLS (FY20 appropriation was $252 million). Each of these offices currently partner in the Department of Education’s interagency agreements to support 21st CCLC programs with STEM opportunities in afterschool. But while the president has called for elimination or severe cuts to these agencies, it’s important to note here that NASA’s STEM Engagement office and IMLS each received $10 million increases from congress in the FY20 budget passed in December 2019.

Additionally, within NSF’s budget, the president has proposed a 10 percent cut to the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program over the FY19 enacted level, resulting in a $6.7 million proposed cut. Finally, STEM+Computing Partnerships (STEM+C) would be combines with CSforALL at NSF. According to the budget request, “CSforAll, which focuses on improving computer science instruction at the preK-12 level, became a free-standing program in FY 2020. In FY 2021, CSforAll will be supported at $9.46 million in EHR (Education and Human Resources), with an additional $9.51 million in support from CISE. Previously, CSforAll was supported as a component of the STEM+C Partnerships program.”

Continued emphasis on CTE at the Department of Education

One area that did receive a significant increase is the Perkins Career and Technical Education program at the Department of Education. According to the budget request, “the total includes an increase of $680 million, or 53 percent, for Career and Technical Education (CTE) State Grants, which supports high-quality CTE programs in high schools and postsecondary institutions.” Additionally, the budget requests an increase to H-1B visa fees that would raise $117 million in additional funding for the CTE State Grants. Finally, the budget request “provides $90 million for CTE National Programs, an increase of $83 million, to support the development and implementation of innovative, evidence-based, high-quality CTE programs in STEM, including computer science.” All said, the president’s budget request adds almost $900 million in additional funding for CTE, the only Department of Education program to see an increase in its appropriation level outside of a small bump in special education funding.

Despite receiving support in the president’s FY20 request, the Education Innovation and Research grant program becomes a casualty of the consolidation plan of the Department of Education. This program received significant support from the administration last year when it proposed a $170 million increase for EIR ($300 million total), but with the new strategy around the Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged (ESED) Block Grant, its becomes a casualty in this year’s budget request.

What’s next?

The president is legally obligated to submit a budget request to Congress, but Congress will be the first to remind you that they decide on how and where public dollars are spent. Despite the last three years of budget requests proposing steep cuts or eliminations for many of the programs we care about, Congress continues to support the work happening on the ground in afterschool programs and in the institutions developing resources for these programs to support these programs. The appropriations process will get started in late April in the House, with subcommittee markups and then move up to the full appropriations committee in mid-May. As always, we’ll continue to build support in Congress for STEM and keep you updated of developments.

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