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FYI Number 50: April 7, 2005

AIP Signs Letters in Support of Science Education Programs

The Administration's FY 2006 budget request would slash funding for science education programs at NSF and restrict the availability of funds for the Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program at the Department of Education, as reported in FYI #22. The American Institute of Physics has joined with several of its Member Societies and other scientific and educational organizations in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education to send letters to congressional appropriators in support of these programs. The following AIP Member Societies also signed on to one or both of the letters: the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Astronomical Society, the American Geophysical Union, and the Optical Society of America. Several Members of Congress have also circulated "Dear Colleague" letters on this topic, seeking additional Members' signatures on letters that will be sent to the relevant appropriators. This is an opportunity to encourage your Members to support science education programs; FYI #51 will provide more details on the "Dear Colleague" letters.

STEM EDUCATION COALITION LETTER ON NSF EDUCATION AND HUMAN RESOURCES (EHR) DIRECTORATE:

The Administration has proposed $737.0 million for NSF's EHR Directorate, a cut of 12.4 percent from the FY 2005 level of $841.4 million, which itself was 11 percent lower than FY 2004 funding of $944.1 million. Many accounts within EHR, including the NSF Math and Science Partnerships; Elementary, Secondary and Information; Undergraduate Education; and Research, Evaluation and Communication would receive cuts ranging from 12 to 43 percent (see FYI #22 for details). Under the budget request, several of these accounts would make no new awards in FY 2006.

The Coalition's letter on NSF science education programs was sent to key members of the House Science, State, Justice and Commerce Appropriations Subcommittee and of the Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Subcommittee. It calls on Members of Congress to "increase spending for [NSF] to a level that would permit $200 million in funding for the NSF Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program, and restoration of funding for the NSF Education and Human Resources Directorate to FY2004 levels." Additional portions of the letter are quoted below:

"The NSF MSPs are working to develop scientifically sound, model reform initiatives that will improve teacher quality, develop rigorous curricula, and increase student achievement in these areas. These programs are not duplicative of the U.S. Department of Education Math and Science Partnerships; in fact, without one program, the other program is significantly weakened. The state-based ED MSPs are not capable of producing the needed research in these areas and look to the NSF MSPs to develop proven models and tools necessary to enhance teacher quality and student achievement.

"Other programs in the NSF Education and Human Resources (EHR) directorate, such as Instructional Materials Development, the Teacher Professional Continuum, and the Centers for Learning and Teaching, are designed to support and improve both formal and informal STEM education at all levels. These programs are unique in their capacity to move promising ideas from research to practice, to develop new and improved materials and assessments, to explore new uses of technology to enhance K-12 instruction, and to create better teacher training techniques.

"NSF's peer review system that enlists leading scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and academicians to improve K-12 STEM education programs is at the center of this education improvement infrastructure. The NSF peer review model is highly regarded in the scientific community and the programs produced under this approach are developed, tested, and evaluated to insure their efficacy."

STEM EDUCATION COALITION LETTER ON EDUCATION DEPARTMENT MSPS:

While recommending a 51.0 percent increase (to $269.0 million) for the Education Department's MSP program in FY 2006, the Administration also proposes to fence off $120.0 million of that funding for a new grant program for secondary math that would redirect funding away from the state-based MSP program (see FYI #22 for details). The Administration proposed this same set-aside last year, but Congress did not approve it.

The Coalition's letter on the ED MSP program was sent to key Labor-HHS-Education appropriators in both chambers. This letter supports the requested funding level but opposes the $120.0 million set-aside. Selected portions of the letter are provided below:

"We understand in these tight fiscal times, Congress is unable to provide the NCLB [No Child Left Behind Act] authorization of $450 million for the MSPs, but we do support substantial increases in order to prepare for the science assessments that will be required in 2007. Therefore, we urge you to support the President's request of $269 million.... Additionally, we urge you to oppose the creation of a new initiative that would redirect $120 million of the funds away from the ED state-based MSP programs to create a new federal grant program. This would require a change to the NCLB statute, cut funds to the states, and greatly reduce state flexibility to meet their most critical needs.

"Funding for the Ed MSPs go directly to the states as formula block grants. States provide these funds through competitive grants to local partnerships of schools, higher education institutions and others for reform efforts.... Most grants go to high-need districts so they can strengthen teacher professional development and increase student performance in science, mathematics, and technology."

The full text of the letters, along with other letters and policy statements endorsed by AIP, can be found on the AIP Government Relations web page at http://www.aip.org/gov/ under "Policy Statements."

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

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