Q: Speaking of the President, what’s been happening with respect to the Administration?
A: To begin on the nominations front, Cindy Marten, the administration’s pick for Deputy Secretary at the Department of Education was confirmed by the Senate on May 11 th . James Kvaal, their pick for Undersecretary at the Department was reported favorably out of the HELP Committee on April 21 st and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate.
Additionally, back in April, we saw the “skinny” budget request released by the administration. It outlined top-level propositions and priorities across the federal government, but lacked significant programmatic details. After a number of delays, those details were finally released at the end of May, and give us a better understanding of the administration’s specific priorities (see the table below). The other major policy proposals we saw floated by the administration are the American Jobs Plan (a $2 Trillion infrastructure package) and American Families Plan (a $1 Trillion investment in America’s children), introduced together as a follow-up to the American Recovery Plan.
Q: Within the American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan, what investments seem most applicable to educators?
A: The American Jobs Plan (AJP) and American Families Plan (AFP) establish an ambitious framework to invest in America and rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. As an example, public schools in America need significant re-investment and revitalization. The AJP would invest $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, “through $50 billion in direct grants and an additional $50 billion leveraged through bonds.” The funds will be used primarily to ensure that schools are safe and healthy places of learning, but will also be used to invest in the technology and laboratory spaces that will help educators prepare students to be productive workers. The AJP also calls for $12 billion to be directed to community college infrastructure, not only for their physical and technological needs, but to help address education deserts, particularly in rural areas. 
Additionally, recent details from the budget request outlined that the AFP would provide $1.6 billion in one-time, mandatory funding for the “Answer the Call—Supporting In-Demand Credentials for Teachers program.” This funding would provide grants from the Department of Education for public school teachers to “obtain additional certifications at no-cost in high-demand subject areas” such as STEM education, as well as “other certifications associated with greater teacher effectiveness.” 
Q: What’s the timeline for the American Jobs Plan to move forward? Are you expecting major changes as it moves through these processes?
A: While the administration would like to be bold and advance this plan quickly, because of the massive scope of the plan, as it moves through Congress, it is likely to slow down. We’ve seen some examples of the back-and-forth as Congress and the administration negotiate down the top-line dollar figure for the plan. President Biden’s initial proposal was $2.25 Trillion. Congressional Republicans countered with their own proposal of only $586 Billion. The administration came back with a counterproposal of $1.7 Trillion, which reportedly drops planned R&D spending, as well as advanced manufacturing, and other items that didn’t fit the definition of “traditional infrastructure.” Their hope is that some of those cut priorities could be carried in other legislation, like the recently passed USICA.
As the plan moves forward, I will provide updates on its progress and major changes.
Q: Whether or not we get an infrastructure bill, you indicated that the budget and appropriations cycle is well underway. For educators, are there any standout observations from the release of the administration’s full budget request?
A: Yes! The process is finally moving and catching up to the regular order of things that I outlined in my presentation to STEMx earlier this year. The full budget request is always slightly delayed the year after a Presidential election, which in turn slows down Congress’ own work. Luckily, the details we just saw from the administration bode well for the Department of Education, and the other agencies doing critical STEM education work. Per the table below, each of the accounts we have been regularly tracking over the last 5 years is either fully funded at its level from last year, or sees modest increases – none saw any cuts or elimination!
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