June 4, 2013
The ASP’s Statement Regarding The Obama Administration’s GFY14 Budget Proposal Relating To NASA SMD EPO Funding
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP), speaking from the perspective of 124 years of advancing science and science education, expresses its profound concern over the Obama Administration´s fiscal year 2014 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education restructuring proposal. This proposal will drastically reduce NASA´s education and public outreach (EPO) effort, including the abrupt termination of all mission-based EPO efforts in NASA´s Science Mission Directorate (SMD). We believe that this action, in NASA and similarly in other science agencies, will significantly damage STEM education efforts–just the opposite of what the Administration intends.
As stated in its policy guide, NASA “can make especially important contributions (in) education and raising the general level of public understanding and appreciation of science and technology.” The agency has also, in our estimation, recognized the fundamental principal that science and science education work best when they go hand-in-hand. For nearly two decades, NASA´s science directorate has embedded educators working with scientists directly into its science missions and programs. This pioneering approach has produced authentic science education experiences, using metrics to document significant impacts for millions of students, teachers, and the engaged taxpaying public in support of strategic and national STEM goals.NASA´s SMD EPO has amplified its reach by partnering with a national network of schools, colleges, museums, non-profit organizations and others, leveraging resources to achieve maximum impact for the benefit of the nation and its youth. The agency and its partners also understand that effective education does not occur solely in the classroom; NASA has effectively championed out-of-school experiences that complement formal learning in synergistic ways.
NASA SMD anticipated the Administration in recognizing the value of coordinated efforts: as early as 1997, it established the concept of coordinating forums to enhance its programmatic efforts. Four years ago, it established Science Education and Public Outreach Forums (SEPOFs) for each of its science divisions. The SEPOFs work together, using a common set of goals, metrics and robust evaluation approaches to coordinate the work of mission and program EPO in a collaborative, communication-rich environment. This approach increases STEM education impact as scientists and educators–working together–inspire, engage, educate and train with real, cutting-edge, scientific discoveries and techniques.
In the ASP´s view, these efforts already directly support the President´s national STEM goals. Most use capabilities unique to NASA that cannot be duplicated or disseminated by other agencies. Virtually all will be lost–overnight–under the current plan.
This is the time to truly take a step forward in advancing national STEM goals. We strongly urge the Administration to listen to the collective voices expressing concern over this proposal–experts who successfully deliver science education programs and training every day to the educators and learners who shape our future. We call upon the Administration to reconsider its plan, and work together with its science agencies to craft a STEM education strategy that will build upon, leverage and strengthen existing and effective programs rather than dismantle them. In this way, we can collaboratively advance strategic STEM initiatives for the national good. We will provide current and future generations with the very best foundation to ensure their STEM-literacy, and we will create an education legacy worthy of our shared goals.
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