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Congress Boosts Education Research and Development in Omnibus Spending Bill

Many of the education programs threatened with cuts in fiscal 2016 instead were level-funded in the more than $1 trillion Congressional budget deal announced late Tuesday, and federal education research and development would get a modest boost.

The Institute of Education Science's research and development efforts would get $195 million in fiscal 2016, up from less than $180 million in fiscal 2015. Likewise, the National Center for Education Statistics would receive $112 million, up $9 million from current spending, and would also get $149 million to administer the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a $20 million bump over fiscal 2015. All of those increases finally bring the IES programs above their spending levels before the 2013 across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester.

Research and evaluation in special education in IES was flat-funded at just over $64.8 million. That's likely frustrating for the National Center on Special Education Research, which in recent years has had to forgo awarding grants for lack of money, but the center did avoid some major cuts proposed in House and Senate versions of the spending bill.

The Investing in Innovation, or i3, grants were flat-funded at $120 million. The program, which was created as part of the Obama administration's stimulus programs, provided funds to develop, validate, and expand promising education interventions. It is the only one of those stimulus-era education initiatives to gain a foothold in the in the Every Student Succeeds Act, as the Education Innovation and Research grants.

The regional educational laboratory system would likewise be level-funded in the omnibus. (A hat tip goes to Michele McLaughlin of the Knowledge Alliance for pointing this out.) While the RELS have had increased scrutiny and a few budget fights in recent years, they were noted in ESSA as a potential source of much-needed support for states grappling with the evidence standards created by the new education law.

The spending bill includes language allowing IES Director Ruth Neild to pool money reserved to evaluate education programs in order to provide richer and larger evaluations. IES must provide a plan for how and whom it will evaluate.

Education Research in Other Agencies

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development would receive nearly $1.34 billion for fiscal 2016, up from $1.29 billion in fiscal 2015 and part of an overall $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health. The National Science Foundation's education directorate also would receive $880 million, up from $866 million this year.

The omnibus spending deal passed the House this morning and is expected to pass the Senate this afternoon, before a midnight deadline.

To dig into more details of education spending in the omnibus bill, check out my colleague Andrew Ujifusa's coverage over at Politics K-12.


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