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Obama Wants New, $300 Million Math and Science Program

Today's a big day for budget geeks in Washington and beyond. President Obama this morning unveiled his new spending request for the coming fiscal year.

For the big picture, check out my colleague Alyson Klein's post over at Politics K-12. I'm going to first home in on what appears to be a brand-new math and science program, with a price tag of $300 million. It would be housed at the U.S. Department of Education.

More precisely, a White House budget summary says this proposal would provide grants "to states to develop and implement instructional practices and improve teaching and learning in science and math aligned to new high standards."

In addition, the president's request would dedicate $150 million "within the Investing in Innovation Fund to competitive grants for school districts, nonprofits, and other organizations to test, validate, and scale promising strategies to improve teaching and accelerate student learning in STEM subjects."

This $150 million appears to be part of a proposal by the president for $500 million more for the Investing in Innovation fund, or i3, which was created as part of the federal economic-stimulus law. It currently has $650 million.

With all of this, it's important to keep in mind that the budget plan is essentially a political document outlining the president's priorities. You know, "The president proposes and Congress disposes." It's ultimately up to lawmakers to pass budget bills that spell out funding levels for the endless array of federal programs.

Stay tuned for more analysis of the president's budget request later. There will be plenty more of special interest to Curriculum Matters readers. If you'd like to dive in yourself, here's a link to the detailed request for the Education Department. And if you find something particularly noteworthy, by all means, post a comment!

UPDATE: I have some new details to add, as more materials from the Education Department have become available. First and foremost, funding for the $300 million program (which the Education Department says is "to improve the teaching and learning of STEM subjects") would rely in part on phasing out the $180 million Mathematics and Science Partnership program, shifting that money over to support the new initiative. So, only about $120 million would be "new" money.

Also, the department says a little more about what the $300 million would be used for. It would "support professional development for STEM teachers; the implementation of high-quality assessments and instructional materials; and improved systems for linking student data on assessments with instructional supports such as lesson plans and intervention strategies."

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