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FYI Number 105: September 20, 2002

Education Department Math/Science Partnerships Threatened

During its mark-up of the Senate bill to reauthorize NSF (S. 2817), the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee approved an amendment that would consolidate the two existing Math and Science Partnership programs into a single program within NSF.

As readers may recall, in FY 2002 similar but not identical Math and Science Partnership programs were funded within both the Department of Education and NSF. The purpose of both programs is to improve science and math education through partnerships among states, school districts, university science or math departments, and other eligible partners. The NSF Partnerships were intended to be merit-based grants to develop model programs and best practices; the Education Department program was intended to provide funding to states by formula grant, to be distributed to partnerships that include high-need school districts. However, because the Education Department Partnerships received only minimal funding ($12.5 million compared to $160 million for the NSF Partnerships) in FY 2002, NSF is currently administering the grants for both Partnership programs.

The HELP Committee, which in the Senate has jurisdiction over the Department of Education as well as partial jurisdiction over NSF, approved its version of the NSF reauthorization bill on September 5. In addition to authorizing a doubling of the NSF budget by FY 2007 (see FYI #97 for additional details of the bill), the HELP Committee's bill would authorize the Math and Science Partnership program in NSF but eliminate the Education Department's Partnership program.

According to reports, under the HELP Committee's version of S. 2817, NSF would operate the Math and Science Partnership program as a competitive grant program for three years (fiscal years 2003 to 2005), at which time the program - still administered by NSF - would transition to a formula grant program for fiscal years 2006 and 2007, with the funds going to State Education Agencies for distribution. It appears that at this point NSF might no longer have control over which partnership proposals received funding.

Since the Eisenhower Professional Development program was terminated in FY 2002, repeal of the Education Department's Math and Science Partnership program would mean the end of all targeted Education Department funding for improving science and math education. (There is, however, generic Teacher Quality money that may be used for improving science and math as well as other types of instruction.)

S. 2817 was marked up by the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday, but no change was made to the Math and Science Partnerships provision. The House version of the NSF reauthorization bill does not include the same provision to eliminate the Education Department's Partnership program and consolidate the Partnerships within NSF, and there are indications that key House members oppose this provision. If the provision is not deleted when the bill goes before the full Senate, this issue will need to be reconciled during the House-Senate conference on the bill. The conference has not yet been scheduled and conferees have yet to be named.

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

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