How the New Budget Funds STEM in ESSA

With a new federal spending bill signed into law on March 23, 2018, STEM advocates are celebrating increased funding for programs and initiatives in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Several provisions in ESSA allow—and even encourage—the use of federal funds to support STEM education.

The statutory language itself frequently calls out STEM education, and guidance released by USED in April 2017, Resources for STEM Education, which was intended to “help SEAs, LEAs, and their partners better understand how to use Federal funds to support innovative, equity-focused pre-kindergarten through grade 12 (PreK-12) STEM education strategies,” points to provisions that could be used to support STEM education without explicit identifying STEM. See Achieve’s brief, Leveraging ESSA to Promote Science and STEM Education in States to learn more.

Here are the new funding levels for STEM-related provisions in ESSA compared to the previous funding levels passed by Congress in May 2017.


STEM and ESSA funding

 ESSA Provision


 How STEM Fits In

 Funding in New   Federal Budget


Title I, Part A: Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies


To provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps


ESSA Provision

No explicit reference to STEM


USED Guidance

Schools operating a Title I schoolwide program may use these funds to:

  • acquire devices, including tablets and laptops;

  • support STEM coursework; and

  • expand learning time through before- and after-school programs and summer programs and opportunities


Funding level:  $15,800,000,000


Previous funding:




Title I, Part B: State Assessment Grants


To pay for the development of state assessments, standards, and to carry out assessment activities


ESSA Provision

States can use these funds to update science assessments to include engineering design and practices


USED Guidance

No mention of this provision



Funding level: $378,000,000 

Previous funding:



Title II, Part A: Supporting Effective Instruction


To (1) increase student achievement consistent with the challenging State academic standards; (2) improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers, principals, and other school leaders; (3) increase the number of teachers, principals, and other school leaders who are effective in improving student academic achievement in schools; and (4) provide low-income and minority students greater access to effective teachers, principals, and other school leaders


ESSA Provision

States can award subgrants to districts to provide incentive pay to attract teachers in “high-need academic subject areas,” provide increased teacher supports in various forms (e.g., hiring STEM coaches, partnering with non-profits), and recruit qualified individuals from other fields to become teachers


USED Guidance

Opportunity to support and recruit educators in STEM disciplines

  • Implement alternate routes to obtain teacher certification
  • Provide STEM teachers with professional learning and leadership support



Funding level: $2,100,000,000


Previous funding: $2,100,000,000



Title II, Part B: National Activities


To research and support comprehensive performance-based compensation systems or human capital management systems for teachers or school leaders who raise student academic achievement and close the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students and to evaluate the effectiveness, fairness, quality, consistency, and reliability of those systems


ESSA Provision

State grant to create and elevate a STEM Master Teacher Corps


USED Guidance

Can fund teacher recruitment in STEM fields through the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program



Title III, Part A: English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act


To help ensure that English learners attain English proficiency and can meet the same challenging State academic standards that all children are expected to meet; to support development and capacity to provide effective language instruction educational programs, and promote family and community participation in those programs


ESSA Provision

No explicit reference to STEM


USED Guidance

  • States may use these funds to upgrade programs to increase digital learning resources and materials in non-English languages to support achievement in STEM areas
  • States may use these funds to assist English learners in achieving at higher levels in science. Strategies can include science professional learning for educators, providing technical assistance to districts, or implementing or upgrading programs



Funding level: $737,400,000


Previous funding: $737,400,000



Title IV, Part A: Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants


To increase capacity of states and districts to 1) provide students with access to a well-rounded education, 2) improve school conditions for student learning, and 3) improve the use of technology to increase digital literacy of all students


ESSA Provision

These funds may focus on increasing access and student engagement in STEM for underrepresented students. Allowable activities that promote STEM education include:

  • expanding high-quality STEM courses;
  • increasing access to STEM for underserved and at-risk student populations;
  • supporting the participation of students in STEM nonprofit competitions;
  • providing hands-on learning opportunities in STEM;
  • integrating other academic subjects, including the arts, into STEM subject programs;
  • creating or enhancing STEM specialty schools; integrating classroom-based and after-school and informal STEM instruction; and
  • integrating other subjects (including the arts) into STEM programs


USED Guidance

Reiterates allowable activities listed in the law, and adds that these funds can be used to:

  • provide professional development to educators on incorporating technology into effective STEM instruction through personalized learning or blended learning
  • build technological capacity and infrastructure by acquiring software and devices



Funding level: $1,100,000,000


Previous funding: $400,000


Title IV, Part B: 21st Century Community Learning Centers


To provide opportunities for communities to establish or expand activities in community learning centers that provide academic enrichment, particularly by offering students who attend low-performing schools a broad array of additional services, programs, and activities; to offer families of students served by community learning centers opportunities for active and meaningful engagement in their children’s education


ESSA Provision

These funds can support the creation of programs promoting STEM skills and “nontraditional STEM teaching methods”


USED Guidance

Further clarifies that these nontraditional methods include “hands-on, active STEM-rich experiences”



Funding level: $1,211,673,000 


Previous funding: $1,191,673,000