Computer science is ‘particular focus’ of federal grants

We finally have the first details we’ve waited for since September of last year, and it’s a step forward. The Department of Education has opened applications for the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program, which will grant tens of millions of dollars per year. The grant has only one competitive priority, which is “STEM with a particular focus on computer science.”

Some background

In September, the Administration directed the Department of Education to commit $200M/year for STEM and computer science. The Secretary of Education then identified STEM + CS as one of 11 priorities for federal education grant programs. The new SEED solicitation is our first glimpse at how this funding might work.

What’s new

An application for a SEED grant can get three “bonus” points if it includes STEM and CS. Historically SEED grants had multiple competitive priorities, and STEM (without mention of CS) was only one of them. Now, the only competitive priority is STEM with a particular focus on CS.

Computer science programs, please apply!

After years of effort, this is a significant step forward towards building a long-term funding stream for K-12 computer science. We encourage every qualified program in K-12 computer science to consider applying for these grants, to help the administration fulfill its commitment to a “particular focus” on CS. If you’re considering applying, here is a resource we created with details about the application process for SEED. The deadline for applications is May 17th.

But, we expected a lot more

While this is good news, it falls significantly short of what we’d hoped and expected. We had pushed for computer science to get its own separate competitive priority in addition to STEM. Why? Computing occupations account for 58% of all new STEM jobs, yet computer science has traditionally received a minuscule fraction of STEM funding. The Code.org Advocacy Coalition and thousands of teachers accounted for 75% of all public comments the department received supported giving CS its own priority. We also expected diversity in computer science to be an additional priority.

By not calling out these two elements, the Administration missed a chance to prioritize CS and diversity in a more meaningful way. We are disappointed in this oversight, and so are other groups who care as deeply as we do about improving diversity in computer science.

More news ahead

Details on other grant programs are still coming, including Education, Innovation and Research (EIR). CS and diversity might be prioritized more specifically within the EIR program’s next grant cycle. We’re told that solicitation could come as soon as next month.

In other developments, Congress finished the budget for the current fiscal year (FY 2018) which includes a $3.9 billion increase for federal education spending. This legislation contains important provisions for K-12 computer science, including a set-aside of $50 million for STEM and computer science within the EIR program for this year. Look for a post in the next few of days with more details.

An important step forward, but more work remains

It’s great for our community that K-12 computer science is specifically called out by the Department of Education and Congress. These build on the Code.org Advocacy Coalition’s prior success at the Federal level, such as the inclusion of CS in the Every Student Succeeds Act. We have a long way to go to ensure sustainable, institutionalized funding for every student in every school to have the opportunity to learn CS, and this news is another step forward.

Cameron Wilson, President — Code.org Advocacy Coalition


Update April 24, 2018 — The Department of Education just released details on the EIR grant program as well. To learn more, visit our blog post or listen to the Department’s recorded webinar on the program.

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