As reported in FYI
#95, the House-passed FY 2006 Science, State, Commerce and Justice
Appropriations bill (H.R. 2862), included a provision commending the
National Science Board for taking steps "to establish a commission
to make recommendations for NSF and Federal Government action to achieve
measurable improvements in the Nation's science education at all levels.
The Committee strongly endorses this effort, and expects the Board to
provide an interim report by September 30, 2005, on the establishment
of the commission, and to report the commission's findings and recommendations
to the Committee at the conclusion of the commission's work."
On May 24, the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)
Education Coalition sent a letter to National Science Board Chairman
Warren Washington, urging the Board's assistance "in protecting
the future of the STEM education and research programs at NSF,"
and suggesting such a commission or blue-ribbon panel. The letter adds
that "funding of STEM education programs and research should be
restored without diminishing essential support for the research directorates."
The American Institute of Physics, along with two of its Member Societies,
the American Association of Physics Teachers and the Optical Society
of America, signed onto this letter. The text of the letter follows:
"Dear Dr. Washington:
"As you know, the FY2006 budget request would fund
the National Science Foundation (NSF) below FY2004 funding and substantially
reduces funding for the Education and Human Resources Directorate
(EHR) for the second year in a row. On behalf of the Science, Technology,
Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition, we are writing
to ask for your assistance in protecting the future of the STEM education
and research programs at NSF. In the near term, we urge the National
Science Board to use its considerable influence and prestige by writing
a letter to Congress and the President in support of the NSF Education
and Human Resources Directorate.
"For the longer term, we suggest the Board work with
NSF Director Arden Bement to establish a establish a blue ribbon panel
of business, research and STEM education experts to define and inform
the Administration, Congress, and the nation of the state of STEM
education programs and research and identify future needs and priorities.
"We are grateful for the support expressed by the
Board at recent Congressional hearings for NSF's STEM education programs
and related research initiatives. We are deeply concerned about the
EHR budget and believe that forthright action is needed to prevent
further decline. We believe that funding of STEM education programs
and research should be restored without diminishing essential support
for the research directorates.
"Now is not the time in our history, regardless of
tight budget environments, to reduce investments in STEM precollege
and higher education programs and essential research. Without this
investment, the U.S. risks losing its competitive edge in the global
economy to countries like China and India. The evidence is overwhelming:
U.S. STEM education programs and the relevant knowledge base are not
keeping pace with global competition; our international test scores
remain weak; offshore outsourcing continues to grow; countries in
Europe and Asia are heavily investing in their educational infrastructures
and they are reaping the benefits. Their patents are on the rise,
their graduation rates for science and engineering degrees continue
to climb, and businesses continue to move overseas in search of high-tech
"The NSF is the only agency that supports the kind
of research and development that brings advances in science, technology,
engineering, and mathematics to the classroom. This is not the time
to cut resources for innovative curricula, teacher support, and technological
tools that can give our children the knowledge and skills they need
to become the scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians
that the 21st Century demands. We need more programs to keep students
and teachers engaged and motivated to learn STEM topics. Without support
from the NSF, we will see more students opt out of STEM careers, putting
their future success and our nation at risk.
"If we can be of assistance in this endeavor, know
that we are here to serve."