Reports indicate that the finish line may be in sight for both the
reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
and for the FY 2002 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, which funds
programs within the Department of Education.
House and Senate conferees and staffers have been hard at work throughout
the fall to reconcile the two chambers' competing versions of ESEA.
This bill would authorize broad reforms to many K-12 programs within
the Education Department, including establishing a competitive grant
program called Math and Science Partnerships to let state education
agencies, high-need local school districts, and university math, science
and engineering departments partner together to improve science and
Both the House and Senate have also passed their own versions of a
Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, but conferees for this legislation
are hoping to see how the final ESEA bill would affect Education Department
programs before agreeing upon FY 2002 funding levels.
There are indications that the ESEA conferees have now reached agreement
on most issues in their bill, although special education funding remains
a sticking point. According to reports, the conferees have agreed to
authorize $450 million for the Math and Science Partnerships. In writing
the bill language, ESEA conferees have apparently prepared for whatever
funding level appropriators may provide: if the appropriation for the
Partnerships program is less than $100 million, the money would be awarded
in competitive grants by the Secretary of Education, directly to partnerships.
If the appropriators provide $100 million or more, the money would be
distributed to states by formula grant, and then the State Education
Agencies would award competitive grants to partnerships.
According to reports on the bill language, the Partnerships would have
to include a State Education Agency, a high-need Local Education Agency,
and the science, math, or engineering department of a higher education
institution. Other partners may include teacher training departments
or other science, math or engineering departments, other local education
agencies, public, private or charter schools, consortia of such schools,
businesses, and relevant non-profit and for-profit groups.
Allowable activities for the Partnerships reportedly would include:
developing curricula aligned with standards; promoting good teaching
skills and methods; developing programs and incentives to encourage
people to choose teaching careers in math or science; promoting exchanges
between teachers and scientists, engineers and mathematicians; and developing
teacher professional development opportunities, including mentoring
programs, summer workshops or institutions with follow-up training,
and identifying exemplary teachers. The final ESEA language would apparently
allow states and local school districts to have some flexibility in
the use of federal funds; they could choose to direct about half of
their ESEA money (outside of Title I funds intended for low-income students)
to uses other than the intended purpose. Some states and districts would
be included in a demonstration project allowing them to waive all ESEA
rules and requirements as long as they use the funds for purposes and
activities within the scope of the bill.
The American Institute of Physics, the American Association of Physics
Teachers, the Optical Society of America, and the American Physical
Society are among a number of societies that have signed a letter, under
the auspices of the K-12 Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology
Education Coalition, urging the Labor-HHS-Education appropriators to
follow the guidance of the ESEA bill in funding the Math and Science
Partnerships. The text of the letter follows:
"As a member of the Labor, Health & Human Services
and Education Conference Committee charged with reconciling differences
between the House and Senate FY 2002 appropriations for the Department
of Education, you will be called upon to make some difficult choices.
We encourage you to consider the recommendations of the K-12 Coalition
for Science, Math, Engineering and Technology (SMET) Education.
"We urge you to fund the Math and Science Partnerships
in Title II, Part B, of H.R.1, the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act reauthorization, at the $450 million level as agreed to by the
"According to the 2000 National Assessment of Educational
Progress, student science scores for grades 4 and 8 are flat and there
has been a slight decline in scores for grade 12 since the assessment
was last administered in 1996. This report further underscores the
need for reform and investment in math and science education, particularly
at a time when our economy, national security and technological advances
are heavily dependent on the quality of our future workforce.
"The scientific, mathematic, engineering and technology
community has long been concerned with the state of K-12 SMET education.
To increase student learning in these areas, and enable the United
States to compete globally with a strong, technologically literate
workforce, we need to commit a significant amount of resources for
SMET education now.
"Full funding of the Math and Science Partnerships will
better prepare our students to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Thank you for considering our recommendations."