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Education Research Gets a Boost in Omnibus Spending Bill

While education research programs across several agencies have faced cuts and consolidations this year, Congress is expected to approve an omnibus spending bill that rejects cuts in favor of some modest increases to federal education research and data.

As part of a $70.9 billion budget for the U.S. Education Department in fiscal 2018, the Institute of Education Sciences would get $613.5 million, up $8 million from fiscal 2017. The budget agreement would provide $192.7 million for research and dissemination and $109.5 million for the National Center for Education Statistics; both small increases over the current budget, but below the White House's requests.

Michele McLaughlin, president of the Knowledge Alliance, said the group was pleased that Congress decided against an earlier proposal to eliminate the State Longitudinal Data System grants, the Regional Educational Laboratories, and the Comprehensive Centers. Instead, the bill flat-funds the state data systems grants at $32.3 million and gives a $1 million boost to the regional labs, to $55.4 million.

The budget also makes $6 million available to provide grants to public or private groups "to support activities to improve data coordination, quality, and use at the local, state, and national levels."

Education Innovation and Research

The Education Innovation and Research grants, which provide competitive grants to study and scale up promising education programs, would get $120 million. That's a $20 million increase from fiscal 2017, but $250 million less than the White House proposed, as Congress did not take up an expansion to explore school choice interventions. 

Lawmakers also want to direct $50 million of EIR funding, more than a third of the program's total funding, to programs and interventions targeting science, technology, engineering, and math projects. The Trump administration's fiscal 2019 budget request seeks to target all of the EIR funding to STEM.

But McLaughlin likes this approach better. "We think restricting the funding that goes to STEM at $50 million is wise given that EIR was designed to fund field-based innovations across a wide spectrum, she said. 

And Congress encouraged the Education Department to use the EIR grants to prioritize grant projects that bring together multidisciplinary researchers from neuroscience, cognitive and human development, psychiatry, psychology and education.

Legislators want the Education Department to "prioritize proposals that seek to improve early learning and cognitive development outcomes among high-need, high-poverty students through neuroscience-based and scientifically validated interventions and meet the evidence requirements for this program established by ESSA"—which match the evidence tiers in the innovation grants.

The Office for Civil Rights also got an $8.5 million increase, to $117 million. The 2015-16 civil rights data, which includes information on every school district in the country and which is used to support reporting on schools under the Every Student Succeeds Act, is expected later this year.

Child Development Research

The omnibus bill also provided significantly more money for education research in other agencies than the White House's proposed budget.

As part of the $36.2 billion budget for the National Institutes of Health, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development was budgeted at $1.45 billion for fiscal 2018. That's nearly $72 million more than the current funding, but also nearly $420 million more than the White House budget request.

The Consortium of Social Science Organizations also has posted an interactive map of where research spending is located by state and institution: 

Research spending map.JPGFor more details on how education fares under the omnibus budget, check out the full breakdown at Politics K-12.


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