Omnibus includes funding for ShakeAlert and IES/NCSER

On December 21, 2020, an omnibus spending bill containing all twelve appropriations bills for the 2021 fiscal year passed both chambers of Congress. It was signed into law the following week. Two programs receiving funding of special interest to the University of Oregon are ShakeAlert and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), including the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER).

The ShakeAlert West Coast earthquake early warning (EEW) system uses sensors to detect significant earthquakes when destructive shaking travels across the region. Depending on how far away someone is from the epicenter, seconds to minutes of warning would allow people to take cover and protect critical infrastructure.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will receive $25.7 million to continue developing and expanding the ShakeAlert system to provide the program’s operational capability for the West Coast. This funding will provide support for the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network, a cooperative effort between the UO and the University of Washington, which monitors earthquake and volcanic activity in the Pacific Northwest.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER) are important partners in supporting research by UO’s College of Education faculty, who are some of the most productive in the nation and have a long tradition of translating research into effective models, methods, and measures that improve lives. The College of Education’s special education graduate program is third in the nation and the College of Education’s graduate school of education is fourth among public institutions.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES), a research agency associated with the US Department of Education, will receive $642.5 million. Notably, the omnibus bill will increase funding for NCSER by $2 million for a total of $58.5 million. The FY21 funding constitutes a $19 million overall increase for IES from the previous year and a $87 million increase from the President’s Budget Request. Even so, the funding still falls short of the higher education community’s $670 million request, which would return IES to funding levels consistent with the agency’s impact prior to the 2011 passage of the Budget Control Act. The funding increases represent progress, especially for NCSER

For additional resources, see the APLU analysis of the FY2021 omnibus and the University of Oregon’s funding priorities chart (link coming soon).

Oregon’s delegation has been consistent in their congressional advocacy for IES and earthquake early warning funding over the years. US Senator Jeff Merkley and Congresswoman Bonamici led efforts to secure funding for the Institute of Education Sciences and NCSER. The entire Oregon delegation works with the Washington and California members to advance ShakeAlert as a priority.