Friday, 15 April, 2011

FY2011 Budget Passed; STEM Education Fares Well

Yesterday, Congress passed the FY2011 spending bill (H.R. 1473) to fund the federal government, including the agencies, through September 30th. The bill passed in the House by a vote of 260 to 167 and the Senate by 81 to 19. The measure makes historic spending cuts totaling nearly $40 billion, the largest non-defense cut ever.

The passage comes after a long, painstaking and highly partisan battle that almost forced a full government shutdown. The shutdown was narrowly avoided by an agreement that was reached just minutes before the deadline last Friday night.

While education did see its share of cuts, STEM education programs fared rather well considering the overall reductions. The Department of Education saw a $1 billion cut from levels enacted in FY2010. The budget of the National Science Foundation’s Education and Human Resources division was reduced by $10 million. It’s Research and Related Activities is also down $43 million. NASA Education’s budget was cut by $38 million. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science also saw a reduction of $35 million.

The White House reports, “We protected funding for critical programs that invest in science programs, our kids’ education, and critical health programs… Even though we will no longer double the funding of key research and development agencies, you will still see strong investments in National Institute of Standards and Technology, National Science Foundation and the Office of Science.”

The measure does continue two of the administration’s key education priorities, which were both initiated in the Recovery Act. The Investing in Innovation (i3) program is slated to continue with another $150 million. Although surprising to some, the Race to the Top will continue another round with $700 million. While Obama had hoped to see districts compete in the next round, the measure only allows for states to enter.

Several of the Department of Education’s programs were eliminated, including the $100 million Education Technology State grants. Unfortunately, the legislation also cut $138 million from Perkins by eliminating Tech-Prep and cutting back the Perkins Basic State Grants by $35 million.

National earmarks including Teach for America, National Writing Project, and the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards will now have to compete for funding through a 1 percent set-aside within the Teacher Quality State Grants program.

With the FY2011 budget settled, Congress can finally move onto the FY2012 budget, which will likely see the same arguments in the weeks and months to come.

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