AERA Submits Senate Testimony Calling for Support of Education Research Funding and Protection of the Data and Research Infrastructure

May  2020

In May, AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine submitted written testimony to two Senate appropriations subcommittees to highlight the importance of investing in federal agencies that support funding for education research as part of the regular FY 2021 appropriations process. While much of the focus of Congress has been on meeting emergency needs borne by the Covid-19 pandemic, appropriations bills are must-pass legislation that must be addressed before the end of FY 2020 on September 30.

On May 22, Levine submitted testimony to the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. The testimony included a request for $670 million for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and $44.7 billion for the National Institutes of Health for additional investment in the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.

Levine’s testimony also addressed several proposals for the reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act (ESRA) that had been included in the Trump administration’s FY 2021 budget request. In a May 12 blog post, IES Director Mark Schneider expanded on the specific recommendation for creating an assessment center. Levine addressed this proposal, among others, in her testimony. 

“At a time of fiscal constraint when more expert staff are sorely needed rather than an expanded administrative apparatus, the creation of a separate assessment center seems ill-timed,” Levine wrote. “It also seems hasty to skip thoughtful consideration of a significant change to the structure of IES that is in the jurisdiction of authorizing committees. We strongly urge against the inclusion of appropriations language that would establish an assessment center in the absence of ESRA reauthorization.”

On May 8, Levine submitted testimony to the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies. While thanking Congress for providing funding for the Rapid Response Research program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Levine also recommended that the subcommittee provide $9 billion for NSF and $1.68 billion for the Census Project. AERA submitted similar testimony to the House in March.

The House and Senate appropriations committees had begun hearings to gather testimony from federal agency leaders in March, but work was curtailed as the focus shifted to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to reports, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) would like to have markups and votes in June on all of the subcommittee bills with the exception of Homeland Security and Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs. House Appropriations Committee chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) has given the subcommittees the top-line numbers for their respective bills. 

With the House mostly in recess over the past two months, committees had been restricted from meeting remotely under House rules. The House passed legislation on May 15 to temporarily suspend House rules to allow for proxy voting and remote participation in committee meetings due to the pandemic, opening up the opportunity for bill markups to begin.

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