"Without question, improving math and science education has to
be one of our nation's top priorities." - House Science Committee
Chairman Sherwood Boehlert
There is no question that the chairman of the House Science Committee
has made science and math education one of his highest priorities for
this Congress. Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) has now introduced
a bill to enhance the National Science Foundation's math and science
education programs. His bill, H.R. 1858, would generally follow the
guidance of President Bush's FY 2002 budget request by authorizing,
within NSF, a program of Mathematics and Science Education Partnerships
involving universities and local education agencies. Boehlert's legislation,
introduced on May 16, would also authorize a new scholarship program
to encourage math and science majors to choose careers in teaching,
expand NSF's digital education library, encourage the business community
to broaden its efforts to improve math and science education, and enhance
research into learning and education by authorizing four national multidisciplinary
"Our economic prosperity and our ability to function as a democracy
require a populace that is conversant with math and science,"
Boehlert stated in a press release. "One of the failings of our
current system is that we don't take advantage of all the expertise
residing in our universities and businesses. Education will improve
and thrive only if we bring all our intellectual resources to bear
on it. My bill is an effort to do just that. We will encourage universities
and businesses to become partners with our public schools."
The Mathematics and Science Education Partnerships program to improve
science and math education would be authorized at $200 million per year
for the next five years under Boehlert's bill, as proposed by the President.
NSF would award merit-reviewed competitive grants to institutions of
higher education (with participation of science, math or engineering
departments), eligible nonprofit organizations, or eligible consortia
thereof, for partnerships with a local education agency and possibly
State or industry partners. There is a broad spectrum of allowable activities
for the partnerships, including: developing or improving teacher recruitment,
preparation, and professional development opportunities, developing
or improving curricular materials and assessment tools, enabling businesses
and professional scientists and engineers to contribute to the education
process, and supporting master teachers. An additional $15 million per
year would be available for university scholarships to enable teachers
to participate in academic, industrial, or federal research projects.
H.R. 1858 would establish a Robert Noyce Scholarship program, authorized
at $20 million in each of the next four years, by which universities
would receive grants to provide scholarships to science, math and engineering
majors who pursue a career in teaching. The NSF's National Science,
Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology Education Digital Library would
be expanded to include peer-reviewed materials for K-12 education, at
$20 million for each of the next five years. The bill would establish,
at universities, four national centers for research on education and
learning, authorized at $12 million per year over the next five years.
It would authorize the Director of OSTP to convene a conference to discuss
how businesses can contribute to improving science and math education.
Finally, the bill would direct NSF to require a K-12 education component
to all new NSF- supported university research centers.
According to a science committee staffer, Boehlert intends the authorization
of math and science partnerships within NSF to complement, rather than
replace, the similar partnership programs that would be authorized within
the Department of Education by both the House and Senate versions of
the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). While the House has
now passed its version of ESEA reauthorization, floor debate in the
Senate has been delayed. Recent reports indicate that the Senate might
resume consideration of ESEA next week, after the Democrats are recognized
as the majority party.
The committee staffer said Boehlert will seek to fund the programs
in his bill with new money rather than shifting funds from current NSF
education programs, as the Bush FY 2002 budget request proposes. This,
however, will ultimately be up to the relevant appropriations committees.
Boehlert hopes to gather bipartisan support for H.R. 1858 and bring
it to the House floor later this month.
Audrey T. Leath
Public Information Division
American Institute of Physics