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Legislative Update

Biden Announces White House Science Team

By Jodi Peterson

Posted on 2021-01-20

Biden Announces White House Science Team

President-Elect Biden Announces Members of His White House Science Team

Late last week President-Elect Biden appointed key members of the White House Science Team and tapped Dr. Eric Lander to lead the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Biden also announced that he is elevating the role of the Presidential Science Advisor to the Cabinet level for the first time.

In a statement President-Elect Biden said, “Science will always be at the forefront of my administration—and these world-renowned scientists will ensure everything we do is grounded in science, facts, and the truth. Their trusted guidance will be essential as we come together to end this pandemic, bring our economy back, and pursue new breakthroughs to improve the quality of life of all Americans. Their insights will help America chart a brighter future, and I am grateful they answered the call to serve.”

Lander will be the first life scientist to serve as Presidential Science Advisor. He was a principal leader of the Human Genome Project and founding director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. During the Obama-Biden Administration, he served as external Co-Chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, and co-authored the PCAST 2010 report, Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education In Science, Technology, Engineering, And Math (Stem) For America’s Future

“The choice of Dr. Lander as Presidential Science Advisor and President-Elect Biden’s decision to have him serve as a member of his cabinet is a very positive step forward for science, and for science education,” said Elizabeth Allan, NSTA President. “Moving the Science Advisor to a cabinet position demonstrates how important science is in informing policy and it means that decisions, especially those that are informed by STEM, will be data-driven and based on scientific facts. Dr. Lander is also the first biologist to hold the position of director, and from one biology teacher to another, I wish him well.”

Read more about the other appointments to the White House Science team here.

President-Elect Biden Announces American Rescue Plan

Last week President-Elect Biden released the outline of an emergency legislative package to address the COVID crisis, to provide relief to families and to support struggling communities.

The American Rescue Plan is intended to change the course of the pandemic, build a bridge towards economic recovery and invest in racial justice.

In regard to education, the American Rescue Plan outlines the investments the new administration plans to make to meet the president-elect’s goal of safely reopening a majority of K-8 schools in the first 100 days.

President-Elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide $170 billion supplemented by additional state and local relief resourcesfor K-12 schools and institutions of higher education.

Approximately $130 billion will be used to support schools in safely reopening. These funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance; improve ventilation; hire more janitors and implement mitigation measures; provide personal protective equipment; ensure every school has access to a nurse; increase transportation capacity to facilitate social distancing on the bus; hire counselors to support students as they transition back to the classroom; close the digital divide; provide summer school or other support for students that will help make up lost learning time this year; create and expand community schools; and cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and support students.

Districts must ensure that funds are used to not only reopen schools, but also to meet students' academic, mental health and social, and emotional needs in response to COVID-19. Funding can be used to prevent cuts to state pre-k programs. A portion of funding will be reserved for a COVID-19 Educational Equity Challenge Grant, which will support state, local and tribal governments in partnering with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders to advance equity- and evidence-based policies.

Schools will also be able to access FEMA Disaster Relief Fund resources to get reimbursed for certain COVID-19 related expenses and will receive support to implement regular testing protocols

The $35 billion in funding is slated for Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund will be directed to public institutions, including community colleges and Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. It will provide millions of students up to an additional $1,700 in financial assistance from their college.

An additional $5 billion in funds to governors will allow them to support educational programs and the learning needs of students significantly impacted by COVID-19, whether K-12, higher education, or early childhood education programs.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communications, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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