From the Editor

House Marks Up ED Budget

Congress is moving forward on its Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bills. While the House is making cuts to domestic spending levels, they are taking a much more moderate approach than the one proposed by the President in his FY 2018 budget request. The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its draft spending bill on Thursday. It appropriated $66 billion for the Department of Education, a reduction of $2.4 billion from FY 2017. Cuts are never easy to accept, though this is a better deal than the more than $9 billion the President wanted to cut. The bigger problem is that most of that $2.4 billion comes from the elimination of ESSA’s Supporting Effective Instruction program (Title II), which is used by districts to fund teacher professional development.

Of course, Democrats on the committee found the cuts to Title II especially distasteful, though I think most Republicans weren’t all that happy with the decision. But with the need to cut more than $2 billion from the overall budget, there just weren’t that many places to find that much money. Cutting Title I or special education would not be popular. Cutting Title II may also have been a way of giving the President something he asked for, since most other Trump education initiatives were ignored by the House in crafting this bill.  There is no mention of (and no money for) either of the President’s choice initiatives. Title I stays essentially flat at $15.9 billion, with no choice strings attached, and special ed got an additional $200 million. Rather than the $250 million the President wanted for charter school grants, the House added $28 million. The 21st Century Community Schools Program took a cut of $200 million rather than the total elimination the President wanted. The House also added $100 million to the Title IV block grant, another program the President wanted gone.

The bottom line here is that, with the exception of the Title II cuts, the House budget pretty much lets the schools go on with business as usual. Of course there is still a long way to go. The Senate is not as far along with its appropriations bills and the Senate Democrats are likely to be more combative. Once there is a Senate bill, the differences will need to be reconciled. And the larger budget process—staying inside the sequester caps, finding the additional money for defense spending, arguments about the debt ceiling—all remain to be resolved.

Achieve released a report this week that takes a first cut at the ways that states are leveraging ESSA to promote science and STEM as reflected in their state accountability plans. The report provides baseline information about all states’ current assessment and graduation requirements in science. It also examines states’ current goals and approaches to science inclusion in their accountability plans under ESSA, as well as how they can leverage funding opportunities in ESSA to support science. This last analysis includes only the 16 states and the District of Columbia who submitted plans to the U.S. Department of Education (USED) in May 2107. Achieve will update the report once all the states have submitted their plans this fall.

Currently 10 states have included science in their accountability system, either as part of an academic achievement or proficiency indicator. Five additional states have plans to incorporate science indicators in subsequent years. While noting that the varying levels of detail provided in the state plans and the likelihood that the information provided is not comprehensive of all initiatives underway to support science education, Achieve does identify several themes that have emerged.

  • States have articulated a need to increase student interest and engagement in STEM, and are trying to focus resources to that end.
  • States are focused on equity, with several states focusing resources on closing longstanding gaps in access and achievement within the STEM fields.
  • States are providing extensive opportunities to teachers for professional learning to increase innovative practices and to embed STEM principles in instruction.

There’s not a lot of specificity in this review of state plans, but every data point is useful in uncovering state priorities and pursuing related opportunities.