Conferees on the FY 2002 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill (H.R.
3061) provided substantially less targeted funding than last year for
enhancing science and math education, as was reported in previous FYIs.
In the conference report, however, conferees encouraged states to continue
their current level of effort to improve science and math instruction
by making use of funds available for improving overall teacher quality.
When the conference report came before the House floor for a vote on
December 19, Representatives Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ)
- the two physicists in Congress - sought clarification from House Labor-HHS-Education
Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH) that science
and math instruction was an important priority of the conferees. Selected
portions of the floor discussion are quoted below:
HOLT: "Mr. Speaker, someone who casually observes
the education part of this bill might think we will be spending less
on math and science teacher programs this year than last, and as the
United States falls increasingly behind the rest of the world in math
and science performance, we need to pay attention to this area. The
conference report states, 'The conferees believe that providing high-quality
math and science instruction is of critical importance to our Nation's
future competitiveness, and agree that math and science professional
development opportunities should be expanded.' It is my understanding
from this that it is the intention of the committee that no less money
than last year be spent on teacher training for math and science;
is this correct?"
REGULA: "Mr. Speaker, that is correct. I would
assure the gentleman...we consider math and science teacher training
to be an important part of preparing our students for the future.
I assure my colleague that the conferees have provided adequate funding
to allow the same or even increased effort in science and math teacher
training. The conferees intend that, at a minimum, the current level
of effort in science and math development be maintained."
Rep. Ehlers then continued the discussion with Chairman Regula:
EHLERS: "Over the past few months, much attention
has been placed on the poor state of our Nation's K-12 math and science
education. International tests place our students in the bottom third
of industrialized nations in their performance in science, and dead
last among those nations in high school physics.
"The 2000 NAEP [National Assessment of Education Progress]
results recently announced found no improvement in science literacy
in the 4th and 8th grades, and a decline in science performance in
grade 12 since 1996. This is simply unacceptable. Our country desperately
needs more people trained in math and science. Over the past few years,
I have advocated improving our Nation's science education programs
and increasing the Federal funding for professional development for
our Nation's math and science teachers.
"Mr. Speaker, this bill consolidates funding for the
Eisenhower program, which was the primary professional development
program for math and science teachers, into the Title II Teacher Quality
Grant program, which will receive an appropriation of $2.85 billion.
The conference report states that as much as $375 million was actually
expended on math and science in fiscal year 2001, and that the conferees
therefore strongly urge the Secretary [of Education] and the States
to continue to fund math and science activities within the Teacher
Quality Grant program at a comparable level in fiscal year 2002. ...[I]t
is my understanding that the intention of the conferees is that no
less than $375 million be expended on math and science professional
development in fiscal year 2001; is that correct?"
Regula responded as follows:
REGULA: "Mr. Speaker, the answer is the gentleman
is substantially correct. The report language does state that States
should spend a comparable level on math and science professional development
as was spent in fiscal year 2001. The conferees consider math and
science education vitally important to our Nation's future competitiveness
and believe that such spending should be enhanced in the future."
EHLERS: "Mr. Speaker, if I may continue, the
bill allocates only $12.5 million for the newly created Math and Science
Partnership program. The conference report states that the conferees
strongly urge the Secretary and States to utilize funding provided
by the Teacher Quality Grant program, as well as other programs provided
by the Federal Government, to strengthen math and science education
programs across the Nation.... [I]t is my understanding that the intention
of the [conference] committee is to strongly encourage States to use
funding under the Teacher Quality Grant program to fund the Math and
Science Partnerships; am I correct?"
REGULA: "Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Michigan
is substantially correct. The conference report strongly encourages
States to utilize the $2.85 billion allocated to Title II [Teacher
Quality] dollars toward math and science activities."
* * * * *
One additional factor may affect how much money the states put toward
improving science and math education. The recently-passed Elementary
and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), an authorization bill which consolidated
and reformed many Education Department programs, contains flexibility
provisions that allow states and school districts to use up to half
of certain categories of federal education funds (exempting Title I
funds for low-income students) for any ESEA-authorized purposes they
wish. This could mean that, once a state receives its portion of the
$2.85 billion in Teacher Quality funding, it may be able to use half
of that portion for education-related activities other than improving
the quality of teaching and instruction. Some states and school districts
will participate in demonstration projects that allow them even greater
flexibility in using Education Department money.
Audrey T. Leath
Media and Government Relations Division
American Institute of Physics