Arc Special Update: Restructuring Federal STEM Funding

Under President Obama’s FY2014 funding request, federal STEM funding could be substantially restructured and streamlined, part of a broader goal to create a “cohesive national STEM education strategy” at every level – K-12, undergraduate, graduate and informal education. The $3.1 billion total request for STEM education is 6.7 percent increase from the FY2012 funded level.

Currently falling under several science-focused agencies, the proposal consolidates STEM funding under three agencies: K-12 programs under the Department of Education ($814 million – a 53.9 percent increase from FY2012’s $529 million); undergraduate and graduate programs under the National Science Foundation ($1,243 million – a 7.7 percent increase from FY2012’s $1,154 million) and community outreach/informal education under the Smithsonian Institution ($25 million; this is the first year the Smithsonian Institution has had STEM education funding).

The proposal also eliminates or reorganizes more than half of current programs, bringing the total number of federal STEM programs to 112 from 226 and significantly reducing funding for STEM programs under several agencies, including NASA, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, and Transportation.

Significant areas of investment include:

STEM-Focused K-12 Education

  • $150 million to create STEM Innovation Networks, a competitive grant program linking school districts with STEM resources  to bolster student engagement and support teacher professional development
  • $300 million for High School Redesign Grants supporting STEM partnerships between high schools and colleges and employers
  • $1.1 billion to better align high school curriculum with STEM workforce needs and postsecondary opportunities
  • $1 billion for Race to the Top grants
  • $215 million for the Investing in Innovation (i3) program designed to scale-up evidence-based STEM education resources. This funding will also support ARPA-ED, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education (ARPA-ED); this agency, modeled after similar programs in the Departments of Energy and Defense, was initially proposed in the President’s FY 2012 request and is aimed at developing educational technology and related resources

Teacher Training and Recruitment

  • $80 million to train 100,000 STEM teachers
  • $35 million for a pilot STEM Master Teacher Corps program
  • $149.7 million for the Effective Teaching and Learning STEM program, aimed at implementing strategies to promote high-quality STEM instruction

Undergraduate and Graduate STEM Education

  • $495.3 million for undergraduate programs, including $123.1 million for the new CAUSE (Catalyzing Advances in Undergraduate STEM Education) grant program to increase retention of undergraduate STEM students and improve undergraduate STEM teaching
  • $453.2 million for graduate and professional programs, a substantial 21 percent increase over the $373.6 million FY 2012 enacted level aimed at better preparing US engineers and scientists. The request includes $325 million for the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship program

While all the requested expenditures may not make it through the budget process, the Administration’s budget does make clear the growing emphasis on STEM education and the focus at the federal level on both streamlining and increasing funding for STEM programs. If your company is looking for a guide in navigating the government funding landscape, don’t hesitate to contact me (rita [at] arccd.com) for more information.

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An Inaugural Celebration

On Monday, President Barack Obama will be inaugurated into his second term. As one of the 29 Florida electors who cast Florida’s Electoral College votes for President Obama, I received a special invitation from the Joint Congressional Committee for the inauguration, and – along with other electors from across the country — will have a prime seat, right behind Congress.

I have this special opportunity to witness the fruits of our Democratic victory because of all the hard work of volunteers and voters in Sarasota County, in Florida and across the nation. There is still work to be done – Republicans in Congress seem dead set on holding America hostage; and in Florida, Gov. Rick Scott and his supporters continue to work against the interests of Florida’s middle class – but this weekend will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the inauguration of President Obama.

I’ll be sharing more from Washington, DC about all the excitement of this weekend – and then  getting back to work making Florida a better state and America a better nation.

One of 29 Votes

In Tallahassee this week I had the great honor of casting one of Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes to re-elect Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Casting one of Florida's 29 electoral college votes

Casting one of Florida’s 29 electoral college votes

It was a simple procedure – almost mundane – as we signed our names to the ballots. But my thoughts were not mundane, and they echoed what others said that day.

“As I cast my vote for the president of the United States of America, I do so with memories of many Floridians waiting in long lines to cast their vote during early voting and on Election Day,” Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee said in his statement.

I too, thought with gratitude of the many thousands of committed voters who had made my electoral vote for Barack Obama possible.

Another elector, Florida Democratic Party Chair Rod Smith, said, “There is a certain solemnity to this occasion — an affirmation of the great traditions of our people. [One purpose of this ceremony is to] remind ourselves that there are people who have stood up, sat in and laid down their lives to make sure this continues.”

He is right that even this simple ceremony must not be taken for granted because it symbolizes the smooth transition of power that defines our democracy and that so many countries envy. The experience of casting an electoral vote is just one of many that I will treasure from the excitement of the 2012 election.

The Gateway to Opportunity

Every morning when I drop my 13 year-old son at school, I am reminded of the value of a good public education. It is his future. Protecting our public education system is one of the things that drove me into Florida politics years ago. Many of us are appalled at the policies Governor Scott and Republicans in Tallahassee are pursuing — cuts in funding, teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, and more.

These are the same kind of policies Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would pursue across the nation. According to them, education is the responsibility of each individual family, and each family should get whatever education they can afford for their kids. Once again, “you’re on your own.” If your family can’t afford much, that’s too bad. Romney and his supporters would abandon those millions of young Americans and their futures.

President Obama understands this is wrong and that a quality public education must be available to all students – not just the few who can afford it. He has said:

“You can choose a future where more Americans have the chance to gain the skills they need to compete, no matter how old they are or how much money they have. Education was the gateway to opportunity for me. It was the gateway for Michelle. It was the gateway for most of you. And now more than ever, it is the gateway to a middle-class life.

“And now you have a choice — we can gut education, or we can decide that in the United States of America, no child should have her dreams deferred because of a crowded classroom or a crumbling school. No family should have to set aside a college acceptance letter because they don’t have the money. No company should have to look for workers overseas because they couldn’t find any with the right skills here at home. That’s not our future. That is not our future.”

Education is the foundation for a stronger economy and better jobs for Americans, and it is the gateway to opportunity for all. America can not afford to go back on education. That is why I believe we must re-elect the President and elect Democrats to Congress and our Florida Legislature if we hope to keep our economy and our middle class strong. (Note: This post also appeared last week on SarasotaPatch.com.)

DNC Wrap-Up: A Vote for Life

One of the most inspiring moments for me at the Democratic National Convention – a moment that set the tone for the entire event — happened the very first morning. I mentioned it briefly in my first post from the DNC, but it made such an impression on me that I wanted to share more below (and on Sarasota Patch):

Rod Smith, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party stood up in front of the Florida delegation and told us that his 25-year-old son, Dillon, was recently diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that usually strikes children. He has undergone his first round of chemotherapy, and the family is optimistic.

The inspiration came when Rod described how the health care reform passed by President Obama may end up saving Dillon’s life. Continue reading

DNC Dispatch – Day Two

As we anticipate the President’s speech yet tonight, here are the highlights I took away from all of yesterday’s excitement:

Rita and Sister Simone Campbell

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (and daughter of the late, legendary Texas governor Ann Richards) gave an emotional speech.  We listened with tears in our eyes, as she had tears in hers: “President Obama understands women. He trusts women. And on every issue that matters to us, he has stood with women… We’ve come way too far to ever turn back. And we won’t.”

Elizabeth Warren, running for Senate in Massachusetts, also gave a rousing speech: “I believe in President Obama and his vision for the future. Not just for folks who call themselves Democrats — but for everyone who believes that when you work hard and play by the rules, you deserve a chance to succeed. For decades now, the dreams of millions of kids have moved further out of reach. Middle-class families have gotten hammered, while the rich and powerful have gotten richer and more powerful. This election truly is the fork in the road. It will decide who we are as a people and what kind of country we want to be.” Continue reading

DNC Dispatch – Night One

The energy here at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte is so incredible, and Michelle Obama’s speech Tuesday night just electrified the crowd. Here one of the many gems from her speech:

“I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are… And as president, you are going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as president, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.”

That is something to think about when we know so little about who Mitt Romney really is – the man who hides his past and whose values and positions seem to change with the wind. But about Barack Obama’s values and experiences, Michelle Obama said:

“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it, and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. He believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

And: “For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the differences you make in people’s lives.”

This makes me proud to be a Democrat and proud to support President Obama! It expresses in personal terms our values of hard work, inclusiveness, fairness, opportunity, and giving others a hand up. A great opening night for this exciting gathering – and I’ll be sharing more as I can!