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FYI Number 58: May 9, 2002

Congressional Efforts to Increase Funding for Science Education Program

This is the time of year when most Members of Congress make known their funding priorities to their colleagues on the appropriations committees. At least four different "Dear Colleague" letters have been, or soon will be, sent to Labor-HHS- Education appropriators to urge greater FY 2003 funding than requested for the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnerships. These letters demonstrate bipartisan, bicameral support for this program to improve science and math education in school districts across the country. The program received significant congressional support from authorizers last year, when it was authorized at $450 million in the 2001 "No Child Left Behind" education reform bill, but it received only $12.5 million in FY 2002 appropriations. Another $12.5 million has been requested by the Bush Administration for FY 2003.

A letter by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), to be sent to Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-PA) of the Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, states in part:

"Both the House and the Senate recognized the critical importance of improving math and science education at all grade levels by authorizing the Math and Science Partnerships in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The program is designed to provide math and science teachers with intensive, career-long professional development through study, research, and interaction with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers in higher education and industry. Partnerships will also develop more rigorous science and math curricula to ensure that all students meet state standards and the skill level expected for post- secondary study of math, science, and engineering. The activities authorized under the Math and Science Partnerships reflect many of the recommendations of the Glenn Commission report."

"Unfortunately, only $12.5 million was appropriated to the partnerships for FY 2002. This falls far short of the minimum commitment of $100 million needed to ensure that every state receives the resources to design and implement Math and Science Partnerships.... In addition, the No Child Left Behind Act consolidated funding for the Eisenhower Math and Science Professional Development program within the Title II Teacher Quality block grant. This means that dedicated funding for math and science professional development has significantly decreased from FY 2001 levels. States have the option of using their Teacher Quality funds for math and science, and last year's Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee report urges states to spend no less on math and science professional development than they had in the previous fiscal year, but this does not guarantee funding for the Math and Science Partnerships.... We urge you to provide a significant increase in funding to address the nation's needs in math and science education."

So far, seven Democratic senators and one Independent have co-signed Durbin's letter.

In an effort spearheaded by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), eleven senators on the Senate Republican High Tech Task Force also wrote to Harkin and Specter this month, noting that,

"in addition to being important to the education community, this program is a priority for the technology community. A highly educated workforce is critical to ensuring that American companies continue to be competitive in the global economy."

In the House, 32 members of the New Democrat Coalition, led by Reps. Cal Dooley (D-CA) and John Larson (D-CT), sent a letter to appropriations leaders,

"to urge our strong support for full funding for the math science partnerships authorized under Title II, Part B of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.... Although Congress authorized $450 million for the program in the NCLB, only $12.5 million was appropriated, which is a 95 percent decrease in dedicated federal funding for math and science in the Department of Education funding." The letter concludes, "The NCLB Act is a comprehensive overhaul of federal education policy.... Let's not do half of the job. Let's make an investment that will pay off for America's future."

Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) has also drafted a letter to Labor-HHS- Education Appropriations Chairman Ralph Regula (R-OH) and Ranking Member David Obey (D-WI), urging them "to include a substantial increase for the Department of Education's (ED) Math and Science Partnership program."

Ehlers' letter, which has 19 co-signers so far, explains the difference between the Math and Science Partnerships in NSF and those in the Education Department:

"Last year, Congress appropriated $160 million for Math and Science partnerships within the National Science Foundation.... The NSF initiative is designed to develop model partnership initiatives to improve science and math education with ED partnerships implementing and scaling up best practices discovered from these NSF models. As a competitive program, the NSF program is not intended to provide every state with targeted funds for math and science professional development. In contrast, the Ed partnerships - if funded over $100 million - would provide funding to every state through formula grants.... We urge you to improve our nation's K-12 math and science education by funding the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnership program as closely as possible to the authorized level."

Ehlers' bipartisan letter will probably be sent late next week. The signatories so far are: J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), Rod Blagovich (D-IL), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Mark Green (R- WI), Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Lloyd Doggett (D- TX), John Conyers (D-MI), Lois Capps (D-CA), John Baldacci (D- ME), Marion Berry (D-AR), John Spratt (D-SC), Michael McNulty (D- NY), Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Ken Valvert (R-CA), Jerry Costello (D- IL), David Bonior (D-MI) and J. Randy Forbes (R-VA).

Ehlers is still seeking additional signatures on his letter. If you wish to contact your Representative about signing this letter, you may find House office phone numbers at or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and email addresses can be found at

Although the timing is not yet certain, House appropriators are expected to begin drafting their spending bills this month, with the Senate likely to follow suit in June.

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

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