Late last month the House Education and Labor Committee passed H.R. 4674, the Democratic bill to revise the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bill, titled the College Affordability Act, passed on a party-line vote of 28 to 22, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all Republicans voting against it, criticizing the overall increase in federal spending on higher education contained in the bill.
The legislation calls for implementing tuition-free community college, increasing Pell Grants and other forms of student aid, expanding public service loan forgiveness and allowing existing federal student borrowers to lower their interest rate. More here.
The 1,212-page bill will go on to the full House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass sometime later this Fall.
Congress Kicks the Appropriations Can Down the Road to Dec. 20
Congressional leaders have pegged December 20 as the next deadline for government funding after the current stopgap expires on November 21. The House of Representatives plans to pass a new continuing resolution before funding runs out at midnight on Nov. 21 to avert a government shutdown. Funding for key issues, including the President’s border wall, remain to be resolved. Read more here.
House Science Committee Passes Rural STEM Education Bill
Last week the House Science Committee marked up and passed H.R. 4979, the Rural STEM Education Act. The bi-partisan bill, which NSTA supports, authorizes NSF grants for R&D for rural students in STEM; authorizes NSF grants on evaluating the use of online courses for STEM in rural communities; directs a National Academies study on rural STEM education and workforce development, including the impact of the scarcity of broadband connectivity, and more.
More on the markup and the bill here.
President Trump Reestablishes President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST)
On Oct. 22, President Trump issued an executive order reconstituting the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) and appointed seven of its members. A White House press release noted PCAST will ultimately have 16 members in total and that more members will be announced in the future.
The role of the council is to advise the White House and conduct studies on its behalf. Its members are comprised of volunteer experts from outside the federal government. Kelvin Droegemeier, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, will serve ex officio as the chair and 17th member of PCAST.
OSTP Releases STEM Ed Progress Report
As you recall last year the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), through the Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), developed a five-year “North Star” plan, which was released in December 2018. Subsequently, CoSTEM has been coordinating with Federal agencies to implement this plan and last month OSTP released a progress report that provides an update on those activities. Read the report 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.
The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.