NSTA Legislative Update: No Deal on FY 2018 Budget

Amid controversy and conversations around immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, budget caps, children’s health insurance, and more, federal lawmakers could not come to an agreement on final spending for FY 2018 federal programs and the federal government shut down at midnight on January 20. 

On Monday January 22, the Senate voted to fund the government through Feb 8, with Senate Democrats insisting that talks over immigration will continue over the next few weeks. The House is expected to approve this short term extension, which will end the government shutdown after three days.

Discussions to lift the caps on discretionary spending levels are also occurring, but reports indicate that Congressional leaders cannot come to a resolution about balancing spending for defense with spending for nondefense programs, which include education. Any agreement to lift the spending caps for nondiscretionary programs would be beneficial to funding for science and STEM education under ESSA. Stay tuned.

Update on Every Student Succeeds Act

The Department of Education is wrapping up its review of the state ESSA plans, and both Democrats and Republicans are concerned about the substance in the state plans and with the process states have adopted in creating their state plans.

The feedback from ED has some Republicans pushing back because they see too much federal intervention, and they want to ensure that states have the flexibility they need with ESSA. 

Many Democrats are arguing that the plans do not go far enough in addressing equity issues. Earlier in December, Senator Patty Murray publicly called out Secretary DeVos and the Department of Education, saying that state plans were ignoring ESSA requirements to identify three distinct categories of schools for improvement: the bottom 5 percent of schools, all schools where one subgroup of students are consistently underperforming, and schools where any subgroup is performing as poorly as the bottom 5 percent.

On January 17 DeVos approved state ESSA plans for these states: Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. As of January 17 the Education Department has approved the plans for 27 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

New ECS Report Shows Science Achievement in 22 State ESSA Accountability Plans

A new report from the Education Commission of the States titled, 50-State Comparison: States’ School Accountability Systems provides a national overview of current state accountability systems proposed under ESSA.

ESSA requires states to select at least one indicator of school quality or student success (SQSS) for each grade span (elementary and middle level and high school). According to the ECS study of the state plans submitted, 22  states do plan to use a science as a proficiency/progress measure.

The 22 states that plan to use a science proficiency/progress measure include: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware,  Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Virginia.

Find out more what’s in your state accountability plan in this easy to read chart.

The Alliance for Excellent Education also has a great resource on state ESSA Equity Dashboards here.

Senate Likely to Address the Higher Education Act this Year

The Senate is moving toward reauthorizing the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) this year, the nation’s primary law for postsecondary education.

As you will recall last December the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and the Workforce approved H.R. 4508, titled the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (the “PROSPER Act” or “House bill”). More here.

The Senate education committee held a hearing on the federal financial aid system, but has yet to release its proposals for HEA.

2017 STEM Bills Passed

Congress concluded its 2017 session by passing three STEM education bills:

The “STEM Research and Education Effectiveness and Transparency Act,” would direct NSF to assess the effectiveness of its efforts to broaden participation of underrepresented groups in STEM fields and require federal science agencies to submit annually to NSF demographic information on all of their R&D grant applicants.

The “Women in Aerospace Education Act” would direct NASA to implement policies that promote the recruitment of women and individuals in underrepresented groups for internships and fellowships in the aerospace sector, while the “Supporting Veterans in STEM Careers Act” would establish a new interagency committee within the White House Office Science and Technology Policy focused on promoting STEM education for veterans and military families.

Department of ED Seeking School Ambassadors

The application for the Department of Education’s 2018-19 School Ambassador Fellowship Program is now open. The program allows educators to share their expertise with the Department and expand their knowledge of and participation in the national dialogue on education.  In turn, ED’s Fellows facilitate the learning and input of other educators both nationally and in the communities they serve.  Applicants may choose to apply as Washington Fellows—a full-time appointment where Fellows are based in-residence at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., or as Campus Fellows—a part-time appointment where Fellows collaborate with the agency while maintaining their regular school responsibilities in their home communities.  The application closes January 31 at 5:00 p.m., Eastern time. More here.

NSB Releases Science and Engineering Indicators

The National Science Board has released the “Science and Engineering Indicators 2018.” The report includes information on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education at all levels; the scientific and engineering workforce; U.S. and international research and development performance; U.S. competitiveness in high-technology industries; and public attitudes and understanding of S&E. The report synthesizes several key indicators of the strength of U.S. science and technology in an “Overview of the State of the U.S. S&E Enterprise in a Global Context.” Indicators 2018 also includes an interactive, online tool that enables state comparisons on a variety of S&E indicators. More here.

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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