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FYI Number 67: June 1, 2001

Chairman Boehlert Introduces Science and Math Education Bill

"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 research centers.

"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
(301) 209-3094

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