Public Policy Committee Charter

Mission:

The ASTC Public Policy Committee is responsible for helping to set – and approve – the content of the Association’s public policy agenda. The Committee will provide “rapid-response” policy advice to the Association; help prioritize and “sign off” on the issues it pursues; assist in formulating persuasive public policy-related arguments and positions; and actively encourage ASTC members to participate in advocacy-related actions on behalf of their own institutions and the field as a whole.

Vision:
  1. ASTC members will be well informed, fully represented, and directly engaged as appropriate in the policy processes that can lead to greater recognition and support (financial and otherwise) of the many contributions of informal science education to the common good, the role of science centers in science education, and expanded public engagement in science;
  2. ASTC will be viewed by policymakers as the organization whose views must be considered in decision making processes related to science and science education.
Roles and General Responsibilities:

In order to work toward making systematic change necessary to achieving our mission, ASTC will engage in advocacy activity or active support for causes, ideas, or policies as appropriate. ASTC may therefore take positions on public policy issues that affect the ability of ASTC or its members to work toward missions and fulfill essential operations. ASTC may also advocate on behalf of its own status and operations as the representative association of the field.

Each year (or on intervals dictated by needs and events), the Public Policy Committee will consult with ASTC membership and present to the ASTC Board for approval a list of suggested public policy priorities for the upcoming year, ranked in order of importance. All advocacy activities for the year should fall under the current priority issues. Advocacy positions on specific issues will be determined on a case-by-case basis by consensus of the Committee. In circumstances where immediate public policy attention is required on issues, the chair of the Committee may make decisions and take actions consistent with the policy priorities approved by the Board.

The Committee will assist in developing and disseminating field-relevant position papers, issue briefs, and policy statements related to STEM issues and help ensure that representation on policy matters by individual ASTC members is informed by the consensus positions and actions of the wider ASTC membership.

It should be noted that ASTC members represent a broad cross-section of the political spectrum. Therefore, ASTC does not support any one candidate or any political parties. Instead, ASTC works with all political parties in legislative efforts.

Structure and Membership:

The ASTC Board of Directors establishes the ASTC Public Policy Committee with the following terms and considerations: Chairmanship of the Committee shall be approved by the Board of Directors on the basis of nominations put forth by the ASTC President and CEO and on recommendation of the Public Policy Committee itself. The Committee shall consist of a minimum of 8 members and no more than 12 members, with membership including not fewer than two Directors. The Board of Directors may delegate to the Committee some or all of the Board’s powers to the extent permitted by the laws of the State of Maryland. Except as the Board of Directors may otherwise determine, the Committee may make rules for the conduct of its business, but unless otherwise provided by the Board of Directors in such rules, its business shall be conducted as nearly as possible in the same manner as is provided by the bylaws for the Board of Directors. Vacancies on the Committee will be filled by a process of nomination and approval by the Committee itself. The Board of Directors shall, however, have the power at any time to fill vacancies in the Committee, to change its membership or to discharge the Committee. The designation and appointment of any such Committee and the delegation of authority thereto shall not operate to relieve the Board of Directors, or any individual Director, of any responsibility imposed upon it or him or her by law.

Timing and Communication:

The Committee should communicate frequently (via phone, e-mail, or in person) in order to maximize its impact.

Committee Priorities:
  1. Authorizing (education reform and science in the public interest)

    Goal: Identify and amend legislation (the America COMPETES Act, the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, etc.) to benefit science centers and museums.

  2. Appropriations (STEM funding support for core programs and emerging thematic areas)
     
    Goal: Increase annual funding for core informal STEM education programs at federal agencies (NSF, NIH, NASA, NOAA, ED, DOE, IMLS, etc.); identify thematic areas (energy and society, climate change, child obesity, etc.) where science centers should be involved and positively impact related legislation; build thematic program support at the agency and executive levels when opportunities exist.
Themes for Current Discussion (illustrative):
  1. Support the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; advocate for the inclusion of informal education providers and non-profit institutions where possible.
  2. Advocate for the continuation of the Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (I3) fund.
  3. Advocate for the implementation of key parts of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) K-12 STEM Education Report, particularly STEM set-asides and recommendations for new technology programs (like ARPA-ED).
  4. Ensure that funding for the Department of Education’s 21st Century Learning Centers program focuses on afterschool and not “extended learning.”
  5. Support FY 2011 appropriations for NSF’s Informal Science Education program; support increased opportunities and resources for informal science institutions within other NSF programs (EHR and research).
  6. Provide state-level guidance for governors; coordinate efforts with the National Governor’s Association.