Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today convened a hearing to evaluate the administration's proposed consolidation and reorganization of federal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs. The proposal would significantly decrease the number of federal STEM programs by more than half, with 116 programs either eliminated or consolidated into existing programs.
Chairman Smith: "In order to achieve the innovations of tomorrow, we must better educate American students today. Unfortunately, America lags behind many other nations when it comes to STEM education. American students rank 23rd in math and 31st in science. This is not the record of a great country. And it is not the record of a country that expects to remain a world leader.
"Our country continues to face a fiscal crisis and part of our challenge is how to achieve the most benefit from our limited resources in the current budget environment. But we also need to carefully consider how best to streamline, coordinate and consolidate programs that specifically engage children and the public in STEM subjects."
The administration's FY14 budget request includes $3.1 billion across the federal government for STEM education, representing close to a seven percent increase over FY12 enacted levels. The request proposes a reorganization of STEM education programs into four key areas: K-12 instruction; undergraduate education; graduate fellowships; and education activities that typically take place outside the classroom, all with a focus on increasing participation and opportunities for individuals from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields.
The proposal identifies the U.S. Department of Education as the lead for K-12 instruction and the National Science Foundation (NSF) as the lead on undergraduate and graduate STEM education. The Smithsonian Institution would lead the administration's work on informal education activities that take place outside the classroom. The proposal would also significantly reduce NASA's STEM education portfolio by nearly one third.
Members on both sides of the aisle were critical of the timing of the proposal's release, prior to completion of a congressionally mandated strategic plan. Members also questioned the criteria for how decisions were made about program consolidations and cuts.
The following witnesses testified before the subcommittees:
The Honorable John Holdren, Director, Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Executive Office of the President
Dr. Joan Ferrini-Mundy, Assistant Director, Directorate for Education and Human Resources, National Science Foundation (NSF)
Mr. Leland D. Melvin, Associate Administrator for Education, NASA