Legislative Update: Education Appropriations for FY2020

Guest blog post by Jodi Peterson, Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs, NSTA

Education Appropriations Part of Four-Bill “Minibus” Being Considered by U.S. House of Representatives

Members of Congress are currently working through a slew of amendments as the House of Representatives considers FY20 appropriations bills in four areas–State-Foreign Operations,  Energy-Water, Defense, and Labor-HHS-Education– that have been combined together into a “minibus” now making its way through the chamber.

The Education portion of the minibus, which would provide a 6 percent increase to the Department of Education, includes $1.3 billion for Title IV/A Student Support and Academic Enrichment (SSAE) grant and $2.5 billion for the Title IIA grant, an increase of $150 million and $500 million respectively. A previous legislative update on the appropriations for education under consideration is here.

While the bill is expected to pass the Democratic-controlled House, the appropriations process is still very unclear in the Senate due to the lack of a deal to raise the funding caps.

Top Democratic and Republican congressional leaders are also meeting with White House officials to try again to reach a budget deal before the FY20 budget year officially begins on Oct. 1 and automatic spending cuts kick in this year.  Lawmakers also have to come to an agreement to raise the government’s debt ceiling later this year too.

Of particular note (and good news for science and STEM ed advocates): the House report language on the Title IVA grant, which clarifies and signals Congressional intent as to the use of the grant funds, includes specific language on engineering education and computer science:

Engineering Education.—The Committee is aware that among science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) topics, there is a relatively limited focus on engineering education; however, engineering is important in its application of scientific and mathematical principles to innovation, analysis, design, evaluation, and manufacturing processes and systems. Therefore, the Committee is supportive of efforts by LEAs to use SSAE funds to support rigorous academic coursework or educator professional learning in engineering education programs and encourages the expansion of engineering initiatives in elementary and secondary schools through public-private partnerships.

Computer Science.—The Committee notes that States and school districts may use funds available under the SSAE Grant Program to strengthen instruction in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields, including computer science, and improve access to Pre-K–12 computer science and STEAM programming for underserved students, such as minorities, girls, and youth from families living at or below the poverty line. The Committee recognizes that supporting education in the STEAM fields, particularly computer science, is critical to ensuring that our nation continues to lead in innovation. As computer science is a basic skill in the 21st century global economy, the Committee intends for investments in Title IV–A to reduce the computer science enrollment and achievement gaps.

Report language on arming teachers also directs the Secretary of Education to issue guidance clarifying that Title IVA funds are not allowed to be used for the purchase of firearms or for firearms training.

Stay tuned.

Senate Committee  Approves STEM Bill

Last month the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee  approved S. 737 (116), a bill that would expand STEM education initiatives at the National Science Foundation for young children. The bill, titled “Building Blocks of STEM Act” was sponsored by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), a former computer programmer. It would also provide  new research grants to help boost girls’ participation in STEM education. Companion legislation has been introduced in the House Science Committee. Read the bill here.

Administration Proposes New Rules on College Accreditation

Last week the Administration proposed a major overhaul of the federal regulations governing college accreditation.

The proposed Education Department regulations are based on language that a negotiated rulemaking panel agreed upon earlier this year after months of debate.

The department will solicit public comments on the proposals over a 30-day period. To view the proposed rule in its entirety, click here.

Presidential Campaigns Kick Off, Many Introduce Education Platforms

Former Vice President and now Presidential Candidate Joe Biden recently released his education agenda; the former vice president wants to triple grants under the Title I program, now funded at nearly $16 billion to ensure teachers in low-income districts receive “competitive” pay, provide 3- and-4-year-olds with access to preschool and ensure districts put in place “rigorous coursework across all their schools.” Read more from Education Week here: Biden, Sanders Lay Out Broad Education Platforms

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), also called for tripling Title I funding for low-income schools and for setting a minimum starting salary for teachers of $60,000. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) proposed spending $315 billion over 10 years to boost teacher pay, while former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro has called for giving teachers a tax credit of up to $10,000.

And the National Education Association has announced it will hold a Presidential Forum on Education on July 5 during their annual meeting in Houston. Confirmed attendees include Julián Castro, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren , (D-Mass.); other candidates are expected to join in coming days.

Toolkit on ESSA Funding for Science and STEM Now Available

The CS3 ESSA Title II and IV Toolkit explains ESSA grant programs and points to actions that state and district leaders and lead teachers can take to use this funding to support high quality science education for educators as well as students.

ESSA Title II (Preparing, Training, and Recruiting High-Quality Teachers, Principals, and Other School Leaders Grants) allow districts and states to fund teacher professional development.  Districts can also use this funding to provide stipends to recruit STEM teachers, and support generalists (like elementary teachers) who integrate more STEM into their classrooms.

ESSA Title IVA (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) will allow districts 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.

Also check out the resources NSTA has available on ESSA 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.

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