Final FY 2018 Appropriations Bill Includes Additional Spending for Research Agencies
Final FY 2018 Appropriations Bill Includes Additional Spending for Research Agencies
March 2018

Before leaving on a two-week recess and averting another government shutdown, Congress passed an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for fiscal year (FY) 2018. President Donald Trump signed it into law on March 23. The legislation reflects the increase in the budget caps for FY 2018 and 2019 included in the previous continuing resolution. 

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) received $613.5 million, a modest increase of $8 million over the FY 2017 level. The budgets for Research, Dissemination, and Development; the Regional Education Laboratories; and Special Education Research received additional funds. Even with the increase for the overall IES budget, appropriations for FY 2018 are below the FY 2016 level of $618 million. 

The omnibus provides the National Science Foundation (NSF) with $7.8 billion overall, an increase of $295 million, or 3.9 percent over the FY 2017 level. Within the NSF budget, funding for the Research and Related Activities line increased by $300 million to $6.3 billion, and the Education and Human Resources Directorate saw a boost of $22 million to $902 million for FY 2018. The budget lines for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction and Agency Operations and Award Management received cuts totaling $27.6 million.

The National Institutes of Health were a big winner—seeing a $3 billion increase over FY 2017 levels for an overall topline, including the evaluation tap fund, of $37.1 billion in FY 2018. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development received $1.45 billion, a boost of $70 million.

Along with funding, the omnibus includes language on priorities of interest to education researchers:

  • Language directed NIH to delay the enforcement of their clinical trials policy for fundamental research involving human participants, and to come up with a different plan. The new policy should go forward for research projects that would have been considered clinical trials under the prior policy. This was a significant win for the Social and Behavioral research community who would have been subjected to considerable additional reporting requirements under the proposed expanded definition.

  • Omnibus language reflects recent comments made by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar, clarifying the intent of the Dickey Amendment. The omnibus states, “While appropriations language prohibits the CDC and other agencies from using appropriated funding to advocate or promote gun control, the [HHS Secretary] has stated the CDC has the authority to conduct research on the causes of gun violence.”

  • The omnibus would require the Government and Accountability Office to conduct a study on restraint and seclusion in classrooms.

While high-level discussions for FY 2018 were occurring, work has begun on FY 2019 funding. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies on March 20 to discuss the Department of Education FY 2019 budget request. NSF Director France Córdova testified before the House Science Committee on March 15 on the agency’s request.

AERA has been active on advocating for additional investments in IES and NSF for FY 2019. As a leading member of the Friends of IES, AERA was joined by more than 30 institutions on a letter in support of $670 million for IES. A House Dear Colleague letter led by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) included 31 members supporting the $670 million level.

The February issue of Highlights reported on AERA’s concerns about the FY 2019 budget request from the administration. The proposal would cut $83.7 million, or 13.8 percent, from FY 2017 levels due to the elimination of funding for the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) and the Regional Educational Laboratories.

AERA also joined the Coalition for National Science Funding on a letter that is recommending $8.45 billion for NSF in FY 2019. A House Dear Colleague letter spearheaded by Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) and David McKinley (R-WV) garnered more than 160 signatures.