Prepared for Triangle Coalition by: Della Cronin, Washington Partners, LLC
On December 9, House leadership and appropriators released their proposal to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2015, which began on October 1, 2014. (Federal agencies and programs have been supported by a temporary spending measure that expires on December 11, 2014.)
The $1.1 trillion bill has advocates going through over 1,000 pages of language and charts. The bill is a mixed bag for education and research advocates and has been cast as a last marker for this Congress and a first step toward GOP control in the next. It also has a number of policy riders of varying controversy—selling marijuana in the District of Columbia, school lunch nutritional requirements and presidential conventions are among topics addressed by various riders.
House leadership hopes to get the bill done by the weekend. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has a daughter getting married Saturday, and he would prefer to be done for the year by then. Of course, he needs some Democratic support for the bill, since it’s clear not all Republicans will support it. He also needs to get his House colleagues to approve a bill that the Senate won’t change at all. So, he may have to come back to the District after the festivities despite his best efforts.
Proposed STEM Education Spending
Federal investments in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education can be found at almost every federal agency. The proposal has both good and bad news for federal STEM education programs. Some initial highlights are noted here.
At the Department of Education (ED), overall spending is increased by $137 million. The proposal ignores the President’s attempt to establish an “Effective Teaching and Learning: STEM” program once again, and the Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) program, which supports professional development for math and science teachers, receives an increase of $3 million, bringing funding for the program to $152.7 million. MSP is the only STEM-specific program at ED, but other programs have supported STEM education or had a priority for STEM education efforts. The 21st Century Community Learning Center program—which supports informal science activities across the country—is the largest investment in afterschool programs and will see a slight increase in FY 2015. The program would get $1.15 billion—up $2.3 million from last year. The high school redesign initiative receives no funds in the bill. Perkins (or career and technical education) programs receive what they did last year–$1.1 billion The School Improvement Grant (SIG) program will once again receive a total of $505 million. There is no new money for Race to the Top grants—a blow to the Administration’s education priorities, and the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, which has focused on STEM education in some award cycles, would only get $120 million for FY 2015, a decrease of $21.6 million.
As for other agencies supporting STEM education, the National Science Foundation (NSF) sees an increase of just over $172 million, getting $7.3 billion in the proposal. The Education and Human Resources directorate at the agency would get $866 million—almost $20 million more than last year. While NSF has some discretion in how it spends its allotted funds, the proposal does state that $66 million should be invested in the Advanced Technological Education program; $32 million should support the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program; the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation programs should get $46 million and $13.5 million should be allocated to Tribal Colleges and Universities Program. The bill further states that of the funds allocated across these programs, $3 million should be support the Foundation’s “broadening participation” efforts by creating “effective models of intervention to nurture students in STEM subjects from K -12 through undergraduate studies.” This provision was included at the insistence of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who leads the Senate Appropriations Committee as well as the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Subcommittee. Other programs of interest to the STEM education community—like Advancing Informal STEM Learning, will have their funding levels determined by NSF leadership. Usually, the community gets a sense of their plans from the annual budget request. The bill language also says, “NSF’s EHR termination and reduction proposals are incorporated unless specifically noted otherwise in this statement or in language in either the House or Senate report that is not modified or superseded by this statement.” This is guidance to the agency related to efforts to reorganize STEM education investments agency-wide.
It is worth noting that the bill does not mention NSF investments in the social sciences, which had been attacked by House Science, Space and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and conservative Republicans throughout the 113th Congress. While there is no language explicitly supporting such programs, as there was in the House and Senate spending bills proposed earlier this year, the absence of guidance suggests that current funding of such endeavors will continue. That means NSF is free to invest the $272 million it has requested for its social, behavioral, and economic sciences directorate, which is a $15 million boost over FY 2014 levels.
NASA and NASA education programs also see increases in the bill at $18 billion and $119 million, respectively. Research budgets at the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy are essentially unchanged in the proposal. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is funded at $864 million, which is $14 million above the FY 2014 enacted level. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would get $5.4 billion–$126 million above FY 2014.
ED, NASA and NSF are among the winners in the $1.013 trillion package. NIH and the Department of Energy did not fare as well with their flat funding. Advocates will continue to ferret out details of the bill as House and Senate leadership negotiate passage of the FY 2015 spending bill in coming days. While the goal of passage by the end of the weekend is ambitious, it’s clear that there won’t be a government shutdown just before the holidays, and that the holiday parties at the end of the next week won’t have many Members of Congress in attendance. They should be out of town by then. For more details on the agreement, see resources prepared by the appropriations committees at: http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=393925 and http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/news/chairwoman-mikulski-statement-fy15-omnibus.
, Department of Education
, STEM Education