Walt Whitman Attending the 2016 National Advocacy Conference

A week ago the team got together at the 2016 National Advocacy conference.  The team received training on several topics, practiced our pitches and networked with teams from across the county.  This is the second year the team has attended the conference and had two students get real world experience working with Maryland’s federal delegation.

We partnered with students from team 1629 and 1111 to meet with Rep. Donna Edwards, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Rep. Chris Van Hollen and Sen. Benjamin Cardin to discuss FIRST Robotics, education (ESSA and Title IV Part B in particular), and the expansion of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math programs.  All of the folks representing Maryland were receptive to this message, however the informed us that getting the full 1.65 billion appropriation would be tough.  Here are some specifics on the ask;

  • The newly enacted bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes a flexible block grant program under Title IV Part A, which is authorized at $1.65 billion in FY 2017. Title IV, Part A authorizes activities in three broad areas:
  • Well-rounded education including programs in STEM
  • Safe and healthy students/schools
  • Technology (professional development, blended learning, and devices
    • Districts can use Title IV Part A grants to provide students with a well-rounded education and improve instruction and student engagement in STEM by:
    • 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 (such as robotics, science research, invention, mathematics, computer science, and technology 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 afterschool and informal STEM instruction; and
      • Expanding environmental education.
    • The Title IV Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichments Grants combines (and eliminates) several targeted programs under No Child Left Behind, including the Math and Science Partnership Grants. The Math and Science Partnership grants, which received $152.7M in FY2016, was the largest single program at the Department devoted exclusively to STEM.
    • The President’s FY 2017 budget proposal would provide $500 million for the Title IV A flexible block grant, less than one-third of the authorized $1.65 billion level. of the three listed priorities, or specific activities within one of the priorities.
    • Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill in early June to appropriate $300M for Title IV A.
  • Fully fund ESSA Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enhancement Grants at the authorized level of $1.65 billion through regular appropriation bills or through the CR process.

If you would like to learn more about the National Advocacy Conference please check out these materials.

After hitting the hill the team and out 2016 robot Maelstrom relaxed and met with staffers in a more informal setting. As bonus we were lucky enough to meet and talk with Dean Kamen, Senetor Franken from Minnesota and a few other folks that are making big waves on Capital Hill.

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