NCSER proposed funding increased

What if advocacy efforts paid off?

Funding for the Institute of Education Sciences’s (IES) National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) was increased in the most recent budget plans being developed by the US Congress in late October of 2021. The increase moved NCSER funding to $65 million, $6.5 million more than was listed in the Biden Administration Budget, a 10% increase. The increase was added to the budget plan after a group of policy advocates (Friends of IES) provided a briefing for Congress on 14 October 2021.

As did most areas of government, NCSER took tremendous cuts in funding following the financial crisis of 2008-09. Although special allocations at that time helped sustain NCSER’s research efforts, by 2013 funds had fallen precipitously. During the following decade, the level of funding has not returned to its pre-crises level. However, the planned 10% increase will bring it much closer. The accompanying graphic (thanks to the American Educational Research Association) shows a history of overall IES funding; I am not sure whether the data for the last bar represent the recent increases.

The Congressional recommendations reflect not just increases for NCSER but also broader recommendations for increases to education research funding. President Joe Biden requested an overall increase of nearly 15% for research on education; the House Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions committee increased that bump by another ~19%. 

The panel was organized by Friends of IES and moderated by Felice Levine (of AERA, which leads the Friends of IES coalition). Panelists included Catherine Bradshaw (University of Virginia), Elizabeth Talbot (William and Mary and the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Research, as well as a friend of SET), and Fiona Helsel (the Regional Educational Lab Northwest). 

The Friends of IES panel provided law and policymakers with examples of the impact of IES-funded research on the lives of children, their families, and educators, along with the urgent need for more funding in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers can view the content of the presentations by watching a YouTube video provided by AERA.

The work of the Friends of IES coalition is a wonderful example of collaboration across groups of educators and their respective organizations, led by AERA and CEC. Hats off and heads nodded for CEC, CEC-DR, AERA, UVA, W&M, the RELs, and others who helped make this happen!

The success of the Friends of IES coalition points to the urgent need for continued engagement and advocacy on the part of researchers, university government relations officials, K-12 school leaders and practitioners, as well as family members. Although proposed increases to NCSER funding are encouraging, funding for NCSER still remains below 2010 levels. This is a time both to celebrate and keep up the advocacy #4specialeducation (to keep up with advocacy for special education, check Twitter for this hashtag).

The moderator and panelists have made PDFs of their slide decks available via AERA’s Web site. See Felice Levine’s slides and those for the presentations by Catherine Bradshaw, Elizabeth Talbott, and Fiona Helsel.