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AAS Statement on the President’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal to Eliminate the Education and Public Outreach Programs in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

Adopted 21 May 2013.

The American Astronomical Society (AAS) is encouraged by the goal in the President’s 2014 budget proposal to increase the impact of the federal education investment. The AAS has contributed significantly to advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) literacy in all four areas called out in the proposal — K-12 instruction, undergraduate education, graduate education and career mentoring, and education activities that take place outside the classroom — as well as to programs aligned with the President’s desire to increase opportunities for, and participation by, individuals from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields. Furthermore, we agree that our nation’s students must improve their STEM knowledge and critical-thinking abilities if they are to become the innovators our country needs to ensure the future competitiveness of the United States. We also strongly support the President’s ambitious goals of generating 100,000 new and effective STEM teachers and 1,000,000 more STEM graduates in order to achieve the outcomes called for in the 2014 budget proposal.

While it is certainly appropriate and reasonable to assess critically how taxpayer investments are being used to create federal education programs in order to decrease duplication and increase programmatic effectiveness, it is not at all clear that the proposed reorganization of federal education efforts would produce more efficient and productive education programs than those that currently exist through the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) programs of the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The proposed budget reorganization would dismantle some of the nation’s most inspiring and successful STEM education assets. Over the past 15 years NASA SMD EPO efforts have developed a network of national partnership among mission scientists, formal and informal STEM education professionals, faculty from university STEM departments and colleges of education, K-12 educators, and school-district policy makers. Many of the resulting educational programs have matured into national models that have produced tremendous broader impacts, serving as an incredible source of inspiration for our society and providing a robust pathway into STEM careers over the widest possible range of STEM disciplines.

NASA SMD EPO programs provide some of the nation’s best examples of how federal funding is used effectively to achieve the broad impacts and evidence-based strategic outcomes that are the goal of the 2014 budget reorganization. Many of the most successful NASA SMD EPO programs are funded through a rigorous peer review process that requires the clear identification of both a target audience and strategic impacts, accompanied by an evidence-based evaluation plan. This process results in EPO programs that are uniquely capable of translating cutting-edge science, technology, and engineering into one of the nation’s most powerful vehicles for educating learners at all levels (K-PhD) and increasing participation and opportunities in STEM fields for individuals from historically underrepresented groups.

The AAS strongly recommends that those NASA SMD EPO programs that have demonstrated success with implementing evidence-based educational methods and have robust assessment outcomes that document significant achievement of the STEM objectives of the 2014 budget proposal be exempted from the proposed consolidation and streamlining efforts.

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