NSTA Legislative Update: Congress Agrees to Two-Year Budget Deal that Will Increase Ed Funding


Congress Reaches Agreement on FY2018 Budget

After a short (five hour plus) government shutdown, and last minute debate (and drama) in both the Senate and House over spending, immigration, and more Congress agreed to a two year spending deal in the early hours of Friday, Feb. 9 that will lift the caps on defense and non-defense spending and increase funding for domestic programs, including education.

After four short term funding fixes and almost five months into the fiscal year this budget package, which President Trump immediately signed into law, will keep federal agencies open until March 23. This gives lawmakers time to finalize an omnibus spending bill for FY2018 that will fund federal agencies until Sept. 30.

Defense spending would increase this year by $80 billion and domestic spending would increase by $63 billion. The 2019 budget would include similar increases. Lifting the caps on domestic programs means great news for ESSA Title II and ESSA Title IVA for FY2018, both of which could see increases under this budget deal.

The agreement also includes funding $90 billion in disaster aid for Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and extends the federal government’s debt limit until March 2019.

And as the ink <barely> dries on the fY2018 agreement, the Trump Administration is expected to release their budget proposal for FY2019 funding on February 12, and the numbers for education will likely not be good.

Details about actual funding levels will be released Monday but advocates are predicting “drastic” funding deductions across agencies for FY2019.

Many believe that the Administration will seek steeper cuts to federal education programs funding than what was proposed last year, which amounted to a 13 percent reduction in the Education Department’s budget. Cuts to Title I and special education are unlikely, but are expected for the discretionary grant programs under ESSA, including programs for afterschool, and ESSA Titles II and IVA. Congress rejected those proposals last year, and we will be working again with our advocates and other groups to help ensure funding for FY2019 programs continues for science and STEM teaching and learning.

Senate Begins Work to Reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA)

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican chairman of the Senate education committee, has indicated his Senate panel will write a bill updating the federal law governing higher education in a few weeks and that his committee would mark up the bill later this spring.

With this reauthorization, Alexander has called on Congress to simplify existing grant programs and “redirect existing dollars for more Pell Grants.”

Other priorities include simplifying the application for federal student aid, known as the FAFSA.

Prior hearings on HEA have focused on innovative approaches in higher education, accountability for IHE, and costs associated with attending college.

The House education committee passed a partisan HEA bill (PROSPER Act, H.R. 4508 (115)) last December.

Senate Democrats are circulating a four-page framework document for their priorities for HEA.

Many are questioning whether the two sides can work together to reauthorize this bill, given the recent partisan rancor and the House’s partisan bill. Both Senator Murray and Senator Alexander were the two key players in creating (and now implementing/monitoring) the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law that replaced No Child Left Behind. Stay tuned.

Read why the U.S. Needs a New (and Improved) Higher Education Act.

Our Nation’s Future Competitiveness Relies on Building a STEM-Capable U.S. Workforce, says NSB

On January 18, the National Science Foundation released their biennial report on global scientific and technological activities – the 2018 Science and Engineering Indicators. Overall, the report details federal data on a wide range of topics that include trends in global research and development (R&D) investments and knowledge-intensive industries, K-12 and postsecondary STEM education, workforce trends and composition, state level NSB comparisons, public attitudes and understanding, and more. Great information, stats and more in the Indicators report and its companion policy statement entitled, Our Nation’s Future Competitiveness Relies on Building a STEM-Capable U.S. Workforce.

What’s in Your State’s Plan?

The Center for American Progress has released a report on how states are using ESSA Title II dollars to improve teaching. Title II is the only dedicated source of funding for professional development of teachers. These funds are also used to pay teachers’ salaries and address teacher shortages in hard-to-fill areas, including STEM.

Title II funds will be critical to the science and STEM teacher professional development that will need to take place as more states begin to roll out Next Generation Science Standards and the three-dimensional learning outlined in the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education.

Take a look and find out how your state will be addressing this issue (or not) here: These States Are Leveraging Title II of ESSA to Modernize and Elevate the Teaching Profession.

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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