The President's fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request seeks to significantly restructure federal spending in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. The FY 2014 budget request includes $3.1 billion for STEM education programs, an increase of $195 million or 6.7 percent over the FY 2012 enacted level, but does not reflect the across-the-board cuts to federal programs enacted as part of sequestration.
Funding for STEM education has previously come from multiple science mission agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Under the President's FY 2014 proposal, it will be consolidated and restructured and will be based largely out of three agencies: the Department of Education (ED), National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Smithsonian Institution. The proposal decreases the total number of federal STEM programs from 226 to 112. According to a fact sheet from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the elimination or reorganization of 114 programs, including nine at NIH, "will substantially decrease the fragmentation of STEM programs across the Federal government, allowing for easier coordination and improving opportunities for rigorous evaluation of the remaining programs."
The Administration believes this proposal attempts to create a "cohesive national STEM education strategy" focused on priorities by level of education: K-12 instruction, undergraduate education, graduate fellowships, and informal education. The decrease in the number of programs is designed to: reorient STEM policy to "meet the needs of those delivering STEM education: school districts, states, and colleges and universities;" reduce the fragmentation of the federal STEM programs and redirect resources around aligned priorities, "enable rigorous evaluation and evidence-building strategies for Federal STEM education programs;" increase the impact of graduate education programs, and provide resources for a STEM Master Teacher Corps.
Opponents of the Administration's proposal have expressed concern with the lack of detail regarding the plan to consolidate and realign federal STEM education programs and fear that eliminating programs will ultimately further reduce the resources available for STEM education.
The federal science agencies were involved in discussions about the consolidation process and determination of which programs to consolidate or cut was made at the agency level.
It is important to remember that the President's nonbinding proposal merely sets forth the Administration's priorities and is just one step in a lengthy federal budget process. Announced two months later than expected, and after the House and Senate have each already passed divergent FY 2014 spending blueprints, the President's budget proposal will begin a new round of congressional negotiations on the annual spending bills. In the coming weeks and months, Obama Administration representatives will be called to testify before Congress on the President's proposals and the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will begin drafting legislation establishing actual federal spending levels, which may or may not include the proposed STEM program consolidation.
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