N.S.F. Budget: Science-Education Trim Backed
Washington--The House of Representatives has approved a fiscal 1986 authorization for the National Science Foundation that some science educators say amounts to a $60-million cut in funds for science education over two years.
The bill, HR1210, freezes the nsf budget at this year's spending level of $1.5 billion and limits new funds for science education to $50.5 million.
The House Science and Technology Committee had recommended $1.6 billion in spending for fiscal 1986; President Reagan and the nsf had proposed $1.57 billion. The full House, however, decided on a lower spending level by a vote of 407 to 4.
In a debate on the House floor, representatives indicated that they expect $31.5 million in science-education funds to be carried over from fiscal 1985 to fiscal 1986, as the Administration and the nsf had requested.
That would bring the total spending for science education next year to $82 million and would reduce this year's spending from $113 million to $82 million. If the funds are not carried over, only the new money--$50.5 million--would be available next year.
The bill is a setback for some science educators, who had hoped that the Congress would approve $82-million in new money and not allow the carry-over of funds for the second year in a row. Bill G. Aldridge, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, has said that the loss of $31.5 million in spending this year, combined with a decrease in new funds next year, would amount to a total cut of some $60 million for science education over two years.
Reasons for Carry-Over
In interviews with the press and in testimony before the Congress, nsf officials had given several reasons for deferring the $31.5-million expenditure, including concerns that without it, the rising federal deficit could lead to wide fluctuations in funding for science education over the next few years.
Agency officials also have said that they have not received enough proposals of high quality to fund this year.
That claim, however, has been questioned by science educators. Mr. Aldridge, for example, said the nsf has received some 900 science-education proposals requesting more than $400 million in funding and could easily find ways to spend the $31.5 million.
The Senate also is expected to limit new spending for science education to $50.5 million in fiscal 1986.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has referred a bill to the full Senate that would authorize $1.57 billion for the nsf for fiscal 1986; limit new funds for science education to $50.5 million; and include the $31.5 million in carried-over funds.
The bill is not expected to reach the Senate floor until the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, which has jurisdiction over the nsf authorization, submits its own version.
That panel was scheduled to hold a hearing on the nsf budget this week. A staff member for the com-mittee predicted that the committee would limit new funds for science education to $50.5 million.
"I think everybody would like to spend more, but we just haven't got it to spend," she said.
The Congress has yet to pass a fiscal 1986 appropriations bill for the nsf--lo