Legislative Update: Congress (Finally) Approves FY2017 Budget

Although we are now more than half way through FY2017, as expected both the House and Senate passed, and President Trump signed into law, the bill for FY2017 appropriations before the May 5 deadline that would have closed the federal government.

Here are how STEM-related programs fared in the spending bill:

  • ESSA Title IV, Part A, Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants: $400 million (more on this program below)
  • ESSA Title II Teacher Quality State Grants: $2.055 billion (vs. $2.25 billion in FY16)
  • Computer Science for All: $0 (vs. $100 million proposed)
  • STEM Master Teacher Corps: $0 (vs. $10 million proposed)
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: $1.191 billion (vs. $1.166 billion in FY16)
  • Perkins/CTE: $1.135 billion (vs. $1.125 billion in FY16)

For fiscal year 2017, Student Support and Academic Enrichments Grants (Title IV, Part A of ESSA) will be funded at $400 million, a fraction of the ESSA authorization level of $1.65 billion. With the low funding level, Congress changed the distribution for this program for this year only: money will go directly to the states and states have the option to distribute the funds via a competitive grant program to districts. (They could allocate by formula only if districts would get at least $10,000.) States have until September 30, 2018 to expend funds.

At least 20 percent of the money states receive would go to programs (which includes STEM programs) that allow students to become more well-rounded. Twenty percent of funds must be used for student health and safety, and the remaining funds could be spent on technology. 

Districts can use Title IV Part A grants to provide students with a well-rounded education and improve instruction and student engagement in STEM by:

  • Expanding high-quality STEM courses;
  • Increasing access to STEM for underserved and at risk student populations;
  • Supporting the participation of students in STEM nonprofit competitions (such as robotics, science research, invention, mathematics, computer science, and technology competitions);
  • Providing hands-on learning opportunities in STEM;
  • Integrating other academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM subject programs;
  • Creating or enhancing STEM specialty schools;
  • Integrating classroom based and afterschool and informal STEM instruction; and
  • Expanding environmental education.

It is hoped that this competitive grant will only be for FY2017 and that Congress will provide a higher appropriations level for FY2018 so the block grant would work as a targeted program tied to Title I funding, as authorized in ESSA. More on the Title IV program here.

Science Budget for FY2017

Funding for science agencies was boosted in FY2017, a sharp contrast to Trump’s proposal for FY2018 that would provide deep cuts in federal science programs.  

Here are the funding levels for some key federal science agencies:

  • DOE Office of Science: $5.392 billion, a 0.8% increase above the FY16 level
  • NASA Science: $5.765 billion, 3.1% increase
  • NSF: $7.472 billion, 0.1% increase
  • DOD S&T: $14.011 billion, 7.5% increase
  • NIST: $954 million, 1.0% decrease
  • NOAA: $5.675 billion, 1.6% decrease
  • NIH: $34.084 billion, 6.2% increase
  • USGS: $1.085 billion, 2.2% increase

Read more here.

House Introduces Career and Technical Education Bill

On May 4 the House Committee on Education and the Workforce introduced the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The proposal is largely identical to legislation the House of Representatives passed in September 2016 by an overwhelming vote of 405 to 5. The committee will consider the legislation in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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