What’s the deal with federal funding for computer science?

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The computer science (CS) community is still waiting to hear from the US Department of Education about how the federal government will allocate its $200 million commitment for STEM with a focus on computer science each year. We’ve now seen signs that details are about to emerge in three different steps, over the next five or six weeks.

First, the Administration is expected to release its budget for fiscal year 2019 on February 12. Next year’s budget gives the Department of Ed an opportunity to change programs to reflect the Presidential directive for STEM + CS funding. Because of timing issues, the Department of Ed didn’t have that opportunity in this year’s budget.

Second, the Secretary of Education’s final priorities for how the Department should spend its money are expected to be published around the end of February. (The initial priorities are listed here.) While there’s no public date, we can make an educated guess because the Department will start running program competitions in early March. The Department can’t run programs without first publishing its priorities.

Third, the Department of Ed just published a list of grant programs that will run competitions this year. As noted above, the notices from those programs will go out — and applications will be open — in March. The Secretary’s priorities will drive how these programs prioritize CS funding, and digging into those notices will showcase exactly which programs have put a priority on CS.

Last fall, during the open comment period, 75 percent of all public feedback on the Secretary’s guidance reflected a request by educators to emphasize and prioritize computer science. We’re hopeful to see the Department of Education react to the strong statement made by the education community.

Finally, it’s worth touching on this year’s budget. Until today, Congress hadn’t resolved the budget for the federal government’s current fiscal year, which, in turn, has blocked the Department of Education from releasing the details we’ve been waiting on for CS. While today’s agreement is not actually final, it could mean more funding for education in general. Overall, the agreement increases the non-defense budget by $63 billion and $68 billion for this year and next. Congress has until March 23 to figure out how much of that increase will go to education. At Code.org, we continue to advocate for maintaining strong support for education at the federal level.

We’re hopeful that over the next few weeks, we’ll learn more about 2018 grant program prioritization for CS, about the 2019 budget for CS, and about the broader budget for education in general. We will continue to post updates as these details are known.

Cameron Wilson, President — Code.org Advocacy Coalition

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Code.org® is dedicated to expanding access to computer science increasing participation by young women and students from other underrepresented groups.

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