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NASA’s Budget Seeks to Jettison a K-12 Program

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Education may be a core mission of the U.S. space agency, but President Bush’s fiscal 2009 budget plan wants more flexibility in how NASA targets spending in that area—and would cut NASA’s K-12 education spending by more than one-quarter.

The budget proposal for NASA calls for eliminating $12 million for a “competitive educational grant program” in elementary and secondary education.

Congress directed the agency to spend that amount in fiscal 2008 to help K-12 educators and students learn about the so-called STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and to promote careers in those fields.

NASA seeks to eliminate the grants as part of a spending shift affecting its overall elementary and secondary education program, which would receive $23.8 million next fiscal year, compared with $32.1 million in 2008, a decrease of 26 percent.

Total education spending by the space agency, which includes programs for colleges and universities, learners in informal settings, and visitors to NASA facilities, would be $115.6 million in 2009, compared with $146.8 million this year, a 21 percent decrease.

NASA’s overall budget would rise 2.9 percent to $17.6 billion in fiscal 2009, under the Bush administration’s budget plan.

The agency’s “flight projects”— $1 million for student-learning activities, such as balloon launches, related to aeronautics and space—would be merged with NASA’s $1.5 million educator-astronaut project. That project includes the educational activities of its four educator-astronauts, notably former teacher Barbara R. Morgan, and a network of NASA-savvy teachers.

Ms. Morgan went on a 13-day mission aboard Endeavour last August, the first space shuttles to launch after a nearly 6-year hiatus. She led video “downlink” sessions with students on Earth, and the shuttle transported seeds that are being used in a K-12 engineering design challenge. ("Teacher-Turned-Astronaut to Deliver Educational Payload," July 11, 2007.)

The merged projects would receive $4.1 million in the fiscal 2009 proposal to provide more activities for students, NASA officials said.

Vol. 27, Issue 24, Page 19

Published in Print: February 20, 2008, as NASA’s Budget Seeks to Jettison a K-12 Program
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