Academic Funding

Washington and Social Science: Paring the Education Department?

April 3, 2019 1575

The House and Senate approved a resolution that terminates the national emergency related to the U.S.-Mexico border, declared by the president on February 15, but the House failed to secure the two-thirds vote necessary to override the president’s veto. The House also approved the “For the People” Act (election, campaign finance, and ethics reform), the Paycheck Fairness Act (related to the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act), a resolution expressing opposition to banning service in the Armed Forces by openly transgender individuals, and a resolution stating that the report of Special Counsel Mueller should be made available to the public and to Congress. The Senate also approved a resolution directing the removal of U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress. The president transmitted his fiscal year 2020 budget proposal to Congress.

President’s Budget Proposes Big Cuts to National Science Foundation

As details emerged on March 11 about the president’s fiscal year 2020 budget, it became increasingly clear that science funding would once again be targeted for significant spending cuts.

Social Science news bulletin

In particular, the National Science Foundation (NSF) – the nation’s cornerstone basic science research agency – would bear a huge brunt of the cuts. Under the president’s budget, fiscal year 2020 spending would be reduced from $8.1 billion to $7.1 billion, a 12 percent reduction. This would reduce spending for the agency below its fiscal year 2015 budget.

According to analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, “the total number of new NSF research grants would drop by at least 11 percent from previous levels, with over 1,000 fewer grants. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program would support 1,600 new fellows, versus the 2,000 that NSF has annually supported in recent years.”

The NSF’s Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) Sciences Research Directorate — the smallest research directorate and periodic target of proposed cuts – would be cut to $230 million. In fiscal year 2016, the SBE budget was as high as $272 million.

Other science agencies are also targeted for reductions, including the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy’s science programs, and EPA Science and Technology. According to Office of Management and Budget data, total federal research and development would decline by 4.6 percent in FY 2020, with basic research down by 10.5 percent, and applied research down by 14.4 percent.

Congress is already working to reject these proposed cuts, even seeking increases in science and technology research. For example, a bipartisan letter circulated by Representatives G.K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, and David McKinley, R-West Virginia, and signed by 174 members of Congress calls for an increase in NSF’s overall budget to $9 billion.

The ultimate fate of NSF’s budget lies with the ability of Congress and the administration to reach a larger budget deal on lifting the budget caps for non-discretionary spending. Without an agreement, NSF will likely experience deep cuts through sequestration.

The FY2020 Department of Education Budget—“Education Freedom” or “Cruel and Reckless”

During the week of March 25, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared before the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations Subcommittees to defend the president’s fiscal year 2020 Department of Education $65 billion budget proposal—a $7.1 billion to $8.5 billion cut (depending on the calculation) from the previous year.

Secretary DeVos started her testimony highlighting the proposal theme of “education freedom” and saying of the budget, “We propose Congress spend [taxpayer] money wisely, efficiently, and with restraint.” These statements are foundational to the White House’s Department of Education proposal. 

Ideologically, the administration would like to further devolve educational authority to the states and increase the states’ fiscal responsibility with regard to educational programs. These efforts are reflected in some of the administration’s major initiatives, such as establishing a federal tax credit for voluntary state-designed scholarship programs for elementary and secondary students to increase access to school choice and expanding flexibility for professional development programs for teachers.

Further, the secretary asserted that the Department of Education budget proposal, with a 10-12 percent decrease from the current year, was written to satisfy Budget Control Act funding restrictions (sequestration/“budget caps”), which Congress has yet to resolve for FY2020.

The proposed cuts are deep. In all, the White House suggested eliminating 29 federal education programs, including the $2.1 billion Title II-A program that funds professional development. The budget also proposes to eliminate support for the Special Olympics, after school programs, literacy initiatives, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and subsidized loans for low-income students. The budget also cuts the Institute of Education Sciences – which funds educational research – by 15 percent.

The president’s budget does include a large increase to the Education Innovation and Research grant program, from $130 million to $300 million. This would include “$200.0 million for demonstration projects to improve the quality and effectiveness of classroom instruction by empowering teachers to select their own professional development activities,” according to administration budget documents.

In the House, the administration’s education budget proposal immediately received harsh and sustained criticism, with Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut,  calling the proposal “cruel and reckless.”  Further, the proposal received pushback from both sides of the aisle and in both chambers. 

The criticism was so severe that President Trump changed course saying, “The Special Olympics will be funded. I just told my people: I want to fund the Special Olympics.” Of course, Congress was never likely to accept this elimination, but the president’s quick retreat was notable. It is unclear whether the president will submit an amendment to the budget request replacing the $17.5 million cut to Special Olympics with a different spending reduction.

To put Congress’ adherence to the president’s budget proposal into perspective, in FY2018, the Administration proposed $62.9 billion for the Department of Education, and Congress appropriated $70.6 billion. In FY2019, the administration proposed $63.2 billion for the Department of Education, and Congress appropriated $71.1 billion. 

The Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations bill is likely to be among the first considered in the House of Representatives. As the FY2020 budget and appropriations process continues, the ability of Congress to reach a new two-year agreement, increasing existing total spending caps, may be determinative of whether this and other appropriations bills can be written and enacted into law.

For FY2020, expect Congressional appropriations to, once again, look much different than the President’s Education Budget proposal. Whether this process ultimately results in enacted law funding federal education investments or another federal government shutdown is yet to de be determined.

Written by CRD Senior Vice Presidents Brian Waldrip and Mark Vieth

Census Integrity Bill Introduced in Midst of Citizenship Question Legal Battle

As the Trump administration is locked in a legal battle with dozens of states, cities and other groups over their plans to add a “citizenship question” to the decennial census, several members of Congress have introduced legislation to restore integrity to the decennial census design process. The Census Improving Data and Enhanced Accuracy (IDEA) Act was introduced in the House by Representative Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, and in the Senate by Senator Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. The bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to provide advance notice to Congress before changing any questions on the decennial census. The bill also prohibits the secretary from implementing any major operational design element that has not been researched, studied, and tested for a period of not less than three years before the decennial census date. The House bill is currently before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and is cosponsored by 73 representatives (all Democratic). The Senate bill is currently before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, and is cosponsored by 18 senators (all Democratic or independent). 

According to House bill sponsor Representative Maloney, “The census is a scientific undertaking that needs to be free from political manipulation so that the data is accurate and truly representative of the makeup of our country. The Census IDEA Act will help make sure that happens and keep the citizenship question out of the 2020 Census.”

The bill is endorsed by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 national organizations; the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund; Asian Americans Advancing Justice; and the Population Association of America.

In the News…

“New White House Science Budget Seeks Familiar Cuts” | American Association for the Advancement of Science, March 11, 2019

“The Trump Administration Really Wants to Cut Education Funding. Congress Doesn’t” | The Atlantic, March 11, 2019

“How Gen Z is Different, According to Social Scientists (and Young People Themselves)” | Pacific Standard, April 2, 2019

“Census Bureau Must Be ‘Totally Objective’ On Citizenship Question, Director Says” | National Public Radio, April 1, 2019


25th Annual CNSF Exhibition & Reception

Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF)

5:30 – 7:30 p.m, Tuesday, April 30, 2019

2043-2045 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

Register by April 29 at

Celebration of Social Science Reception and Awards Ceremony

Sponsored by the Consortium of Social Science Associations and SAGE Publishing

5–7 p.m., Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Rooftop Terrace, 20 F Street, NW

Washington, DC


Late Night Humor

Jimmy Kimmel: “The president of the I.O.C. said: Adding break dancing could help us connect with the younger generation. [laughs] Yes, the fresh new trend of break dancing is really heating up. When Boogaloo Shrimp and Shabba Doo carry that Olympic torch into the arena, oh, it’s going to be lit.”

Jimmy Fallon: “The 2020 presidential campaign is already starting to heat up. … So far, five Democratic candidates have come out in favor of legalizing weed. Which is why the first debate will be held at 2 a.m. inside a Taco Bell.”

Mark Vieth is a senior vice president of the Washington government relations firm CRD Associates. Since he joined CRD in 2002, he has specialized in bringing diverse associations, foundations, institutions of higher education and other stakeholders together to advocate for common objectives. Before that, Vieth was a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives for 14 years, including serving as chief of staff for then-Congressman Robert A. Borski of Pennsylvania.

View all posts by Mark Vieth

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