Last week, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan requested a $2bn increase in the 2012 Department of Education’s budget. The full budget breakdown can be found here. Introducing the request to Congress, Secretary Duncan said the budget increase is “for education that is focused on smart, targeted increases to advance reform”.
STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is one of these targeted areas. An initiative dedicated to improving the teaching and learning of STEM subjects is looking at a 14% funding boost. Effective Teaching and Learning for a Complete Education: STEM program would seek to provide professional development for STEM teachers and implement high-quality curricula, assessments, and instructional materials. The scheme would allow for the creation or improvement of systems that link student data from assessments with STEM lesson plans and intervention strategies.
On this side of the Atlantic, such – admittedly prospective – budgetary increases seem unlikely. As last week’s Royal Society’s report on STEM education highlighted, funding has yet to be secured for the National Science Learning Centre and the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, which deliver subject-specific professional development.
Obama’s budget request also proposes a new $250m Teacher and Leader Pathways program, including $80 million for 10,000 new STEM teachers over the next two years. This is in stark contrast to a recent UK Government announcement that reduces the number of science teacher training places for the third year in succession; in 2011/12 there will be 11% fewer trainees than in 2010/11.
Another of the planned US STEM initiatives relates to a different project at the Society. The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Education (ARPA-ED) would pursue breakthrough developments in educational technology and learning systems, support systems for educators, and tools that improve educational outcomes. Tomorrow, we will launch the latest Policy Centre report: looking at neuroscience, education and lifelong learning. As the report’s Chair wrote yesterday on this blog, the report tries to link neuroscience with educational practice. The proposed US agency would provide $90m in support for this exchange of knowledge between practising teachers and researchers.
With all this in mind, it seems hard to look across the Atlantic without a little jealousy. This would be misdirected. Obama’s 2012 budget request comes at a time of historic battle over the total US federal budget. On Saturday, the US House of representatives passed the largest single discretionary spending cut in the history of the nation – eliminating $100bn from Obama’s 2011 budget request and leaving the Senate to try and claw some of this back. There is no sign that the Republican House will be kinder in 2012, even to the Department of Education.