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Science and Museum Programs Advance in U.S. Senate

On Thursday, September 7, the U.S. Senate’s Appropriations Committee voted for funding bills that advance many science and museum programs for the 2018 fiscal year that begins on October 1, rejecting the Administration’s proposals for drastic cuts and eliminations.

While this is just one step in a complex, ongoing process supported by the advocacy efforts of the ASTC Public Policy Committee and many ASTC members who have contacted elected officials, it is a much more encouraging position than the one faced in March when the federal budget “blueprint” was released.

It is another signal that ASTC members developing grant proposals for upcoming deadlines can feel fairly confident that the programs should not suffer drastic changes.

As always, vigilance from ASTC members can never be underestimated until the budget process officially concludes several months from now, and your participation in advocating for continued funding is critical. Please write to publicpolicy@astc.org if you would like to get more involved.

Below are some gritty details, which will be updated here as more information becomes available.

  • In the current Senate version of the budget, the National Institutes of Health would receive $36.1 billion, an increase over FY17 ($34 billion), FY16 ($32.31 billion), and FY15 ($30.31 billion). It is also an increase over the U.S. House of Representatives’ $35.18 billion. The Administration had requested $26.92 billion.
    • FY18 funding for the Science Education Partnership Award program in the Senate bill is stable at $17.1 million, the same as FY17, although a decrease from the enacted $18.5 million in FY16 and FY15. The Administration’s budget proposal has included $17.1 million.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services would receive $235 million, an increase over FY17 ($231 million), FY16 ($230 million), and FY15 ($227.86 million). It is an increase over the House’s $231 million, and, of course, a vast improvement over the Administration’s request to eliminate the agency entirely.
    • Funding for its Office of Museum Services is in at $30.23 million, the same amount as in FY17 and an increase over FY16 ($29.86 million) and FY15 ($28.72 million). The House version is $29.86 million. This office would have been eliminated under the Administration’s proposed budget.
    • The Museums for America program would be funded at $21.15 million, the same as in the House. This is the same amount as FY17 and FY16 (FY15 was $20.2 million). The program would have been axed along with the whole agency if the Administration had received its request.
    • The National Leadership Grants program is in the Senate bill for $8.1 million, level funding from FY17. The House bill has $7.74 million, which is what the program received in FY16 (it was $7.6 million in FY15). The program would also have ceased to exist under the Administration’s budget proposal.
  • Under the Senate bill, the U.S. Department of Education (DoEd) would see its overall budget at $68.3 billion, which is more than the House version at $65.82 billion. The Administration’s proposal was $62.89 billion. Enacted funding for the entire department was $68.24 billion in FY17, $68.306 billion in FY16, and $67.1 billion in FY15.
    • Title II (Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants) programs would be funded at $2.1 billion in the Senate bill. This is an increase over enacted FY17 ($2.056). It’s also, obviously, higher than the House FY18 version’s $0 and the Administration’s proposal to zero it out. These funds are used by school districts for teacher professional development, class size reduction, recruiting and retaining teachers, testing teachers, and teacher mentoring programs. Some ASTC members offer teacher professional development programs in which they are paid via these funds.
    • The Title IVa (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants) programs are funded in the Senate bill at $450 million, an increase over FY17 ($400 million), less than the House’s $500 million, but more than the elimination proposed by the Administration. It is well below the authorized amount of $1.65 billion, which ASTC requests be fully implemented. School districts can use these block grant funds to provide access to a well-rounded education and improve the effective use of technology in schools. They can partner with museums, nonprofits, etc., to improve access to music, the arts, STEM, computer science and advanced coursework—as well as professional development for educators to enhance the use of technology or any other activity that supports a well-rounded education.
    • The Title IVb (21st Century Community Learning Centers) program is funded in the Senate at $1.2 billion, which is an increase over FY17 ($1.19 billion), FY16 ($1.17 billion), and FY15 ($1.15 billion). It is also an increase over the House’s $1 billion FY18 proposal and the Administration’s request to eliminate it. School districts can use these funds to partner with ASTC members for STEM activities in afterschool programs.