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The STEM Funding is Here!

By Elizabeth Evans

In our November 2017 publication of FUNDED, we featured an article on President Trump’s executive Memorandum to Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, and what that could mean for the future of education grant funding. The memo directed the Department of Education to dedicate $200 million per year of existing competitive grant funds to be used in support of high-quality classroom instruction projects in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and computer science fields. Further, these re-assigned grant funds were to also be awarded to projects that proposed intentional supports for engaging women and minority student populations.

While the memo did not dictate which of the existing Department of Education grant programs should be the vehicle for this directive, we at Grants Office predicted the existing grant programs likely to be leveraged would be the Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Grants Program at the K-12 level, and the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) at the higher ed level. With the fiscal year 18 budget recently approved, the Department of Education has released funding for a slew of highly-anticipated grant programs. Many of these newly-opened grant opportunities also happen to align with the current administration’s push for more STEM education. So now that “grant season” is upon us, how did our predictions turn out? Read on to find out about programs open now!

Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED)
The SEED program supports higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations that provide professional enhancement activities to teachers and principals. Through increasing the number of highly-effective principals and teachers, the SEED program hopes to further student achievement and growth. In response to the September memo, the 2018 solicitation now features the following competitive priority: Promoting STEM Education, with a particular focus on Computer Science. Proposals could receive up to three additional points if they address this priority through, increasing the number of educators able to provide rigorous instruction within STEM fields, including Computer Science, via new teach recruitment, professional development for current STEM educators, or evidence-based retraining strategies for current educators seeking to transition from other subjects into STEM fields. Up to $75,000,000 in funds were allocated for this program via the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill. Proposals are due May 17. See https://innovation.ed.gov/what-we-do/teacher-quality/supporting-effective-educator-development-grant-program/ for more information.

Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL)
The IAL program funds high-need school districts, nonprofit organizations, and consortia thereof who design or develop high-quality plans to promote literacy for students (birth through grade 12). In the past, projects have involved enhancing school libraries programming, early literacy services, book distribution, professional development activities for literacy and other instructional staff, as well as providing specialized English-as-a-Second-Language supports. Similar to the SEED program, new to this year’s competition is the competitive priority: Promoting STEM Education, with a particular focus on Computer Science. This new competitive priority was rather unexpected, as the IAL program has never emphasized cross-curricular activities to such a degree. That said, applicants who are able to adapt their proposal plan to meet this new STEM priority will receive an additional five points. A total of $27,000,000 in funding is available to support IAL projects in FY18. This program occurs biennially, and proposals are due May 18. See https://www2.ed.gov/programs/innovapproaches-literacy/index.html for more information.

Education Innovation Research Grants (EIR)
The EIR program is the Department of Education’s main conduit for field-testing evidence-based, innovative strategies to improve high-need student achievement. Each year, EIR publishes a list of priority areas based on current needs or identified trends. Finally, EIR is a multi-tiered grant program which links the amount of the award to the quality of evidence an applicant presents supporting the efficacy of their proposed project. Proposals can be for early-phase, mid-phase, or expansion projects. In years past, each of these tiers has featured different funding priorities, with minimal overlap. This year, however, each tier contains identical priority areas (excluding those priorities which related to the quality of evidence required for application). Per our prediction and new to this year, among the identical priorities is: Field-Initiated Innovations – Promoting STEM Education, with a particular focus on Computer Science. Up to $115,000,000 in funds were allocated for the entirety of this program via the FY18 omnibus appropriations bill. Proposals for any of the three project tiers are due June 5. See https://innovation.ed.gov/what-we-do/innovation/education-innovation-and-research-eir/ for more information.

Based on this first batch of grant opportunities, it certainly seems like DeVos will have no trouble meeting Trump’s expectation that $200 Million in existing grant awards be dedicated towards STEM education projects. While we were correct in our assumption that EIR would be one of the grant programs targeted (given its flexibility for inclusion of diverse priority areas), the fact that both IAL and SEED also feature a STEM emphasis was rather unexpected. Changes like these are to be expected with any shift in administration though, thus emphasizing that adaptability is an essential trait for any organization interested in grantseeking. As more grant programs are expected to be released throughout the spring and summer months (including the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program), only time will tell which of the other existing grant programs will be impacted by Trump’s STEM memo.