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FYI Number 43: April 6, 2004

Continued Opposition to Phasing Out NSF Math/Science Partnerships

President Bush's FY 2005 proposal to begin phasing out the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program at NSF, and to instead add a competitive grant program for high school math to the Education Department's Math and Science Partnership program, continues to receive opposition from influential voices in Washington. The National Science Board has issued a statement to the White House and Congress in support of the NSF partnership program. In the Senate, Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller (D-WV) is seeking additional signatures on a "Dear Colleague" letter with a similar message, to the chairman and ranking minority member of the Senate VA/HUD Appropriations Subcommittee, Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). The text of the letter is provided below. As Rockefeller's office plans to release the letter early next week, interested constituents who want to urge their senators to sign on must act quickly.

There seems to be little support among key Members of Congress for Bush's proposal; both Bond and Mikulski have already voiced their opposition to the loss of the NSF MSPs, as have House Science Committee Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and other members of the Science Committee. Additionally, Bush's proposal to enhance the Education Department MSPs with a high school mathematics program seems unlikely to go anywhere; a staffer for House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated that Boehner is not inclined to open the "No Child Left Behind" law for amendment in the coming year.

Rockefeller has gathered 13 additional signatures so far on his "Dear Colleague" letter to Bond and Mikulski. All are Democrats except for Sen. James Jeffords, who is an Independent: Barbara Boxer (CA), Jon Corzine (NJ), Christopher Dodd (CT), Richard Durbin (IL), Russ Feingold (WI), Daniel Inouye (HI), James Jeffords (VT), Tim Johnson (SD), Edward Kennedy (MA), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Carl Levin (MI), Patty Murray (WA), and Ron Wyden (OR). The text of Rockefeller's letter follows; the National Science Board statement will be provided in FYI #44.

"Dear Colleagues,

"We are writing to urge you to maintain funding for the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnership program, which was enacted in 2002 as part of the reauthorization of the National Science Foundation. This program is a fundamental investment in developing innovative partnerships among schools and institutions of higher education for quality math and science.

"One distinguishing characteristic of the Math Science Partnership program from other math and science efforts in K-12 is that Math Science Partnerships emphasize relations between institutions of higher education and local school districts. Furthermore, institutional and organizational change is encouraged in partner institutions to guarantee the sustainability of promising policies and practices.

"Math and science are top priorities along with reading under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). To achieve the high standards of NCLB, we should invest in creating innovative partnerships at the National Science Foundation, and provide basic formula funding to states through the Department of Education.

"In FY2004, the National Science Foundation received $138.2 million out of the $200 million authorized for the Math and Science Partnership program. We agree with Dr. Warren Washington, Chair of the National Science Board, who testified before your subcommittee that elementary and secondary math and science education are part of the core mission of the National Science Foundation. Maintaining these innovative partnerships is vital for the Foundation and for the promotion of quality math and science education.

"There is a clear need for two separate and distinct programs for Math and Science Partnerships. The Foundation's model is designed for competitive grants to spur innovative programs that will be peer reviewed and evaluated to enhance research on effective math and science education. The Department of Education's program provides states with formula funding to give states the base investment to meet No Child Left Behind standards. Knowledge gained from the competitive Foundation's partnerships can improve and enhance state investments. Trying to move the Foundation's competitive grants into the Department of Education could force Congress to open the No Child Left Behind Act.

"The Math Science Partnership program, which began in 2002, was designed to respond to a growing national concern – the tendency for U. S. children to perform poorly in mathematics and science. Over 30 years of research on student achievement shows that American students do not perform as well as their foreign counterparts in these subject areas. This research found that science teaching in the United States is falling behind other countries in quality and that American students often arrive at college unprepared to major in technical fields.

"Math and science education supports our nation's technological advancement. Technological advancement supports economic development. To stay competitive in this increasingly technological world we must invest in innovative math and science education programs. Under the auspices of the National Science Foundation, Math Science Partnerships have helped our nation accomplish these goals. The program should remain at the National Science Foundation and be appropriately funded.

"Additionally, the Math and Science Partnership program encourages bright people to enter the teaching profession by establishing a scholarship program for college students who agree to become K-12 math or science teachers and providing funds for research on math and science teaching and classroom performance. These partnerships show true promise in improving math and science instruction for the future, but only if the program remains at the Foundation with its competitive, peer-reviewed model, including evaluations.

"Thank you for your careful consideration of this request."

Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics
fyi@aip.org
(301) 209-3094

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