Last month the House passed several competitiveness-related bills addressing
science and math education, while the Senate passed a single piece of
broader, comprehensive competitiveness legislation. All three bills
were passed with significant bipartisan support. The question now is
how and when the two chambers will reconcile the bills in conference.
It is possible that the Senate will separate out portions of its bill
and conference them with the complementary House bills. As authorizing
legislation, these bills will not provide any actual funds, but the
robust and bipartisan nature of their passage indicates the depth of
support within the 110th Congress for initiatives focusing on U. S.
competitiveness and STEM education.
The House bills, H.R. 362 and H.R. 363, were passed by the House on
April 24. Both were introduced by House S&T Committee Chairman Bart
Gordon (D-TN). H.R. 362, the "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds"
Science and Math Scholarship Act, which passed by a vote of 389-22,
would authorize the expansion or revision of several NSF programs for
STEM education and workforce development. Among its major provisions,
the bill would expand the Robert Noyce Scholarship program, which provides
scholarships to STEM majors who commit to several years of K-12 teaching.
It would specify that NSF's Math and Science Partnership program give
priority to applications that emphasize teacher preparation and development,
including Master's degree programs for in-service math and science teachers.
Additionally, it would amend the STEM Talent Expansion program to support
centers for the improvement of undergraduate STEM education. H.R. 363,
which passed 397-20, would authorize grant programs at NSF and at DOE's
Office of Science to support promising scientists and engineers at early
stages of their careers.
On the Senate side, S. 761, the "America COMPETES"Act, was
passed on April 25 by a vote of 88-8 (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/044.html).
It contains many STEM education-related provisions relating to NSF,
DOE, and the Education Department, some of which are highlighted below:
Within NSF, the act would: require the development of a program to
recruit STEM professionals to become Teaching Fellows; ensure that the
NSF and Education Department Math and Science Partnership programs "continue
to work in concert;" target funds for NSF Teacher Institutes; establish
a science laboratory equipment pilot program; target funds for the STEM
Talent Expansion program; and authorize grants to higher education institutions
for professional science master's degree programs.
Within the Education Department, the act would authorize: grants for
programs integrating teacher education or certification with STEM degrees;
grants for the development of part-time and full-time master's degree
programs for teachers or teacher certification; grants to increase the
number of qualified teachers teaching and students passing advanced
placement or international baccalaureate courses; an NAS-initiated national
best practices panel for K-12 STEM education; and grants to states to
align K-12 STEM education with higher education and workforce needs
and to improve statewide P-16 data collection systems.
Within DOE's Office of Science, it would authorize: grants to states
for statewide specialty math and science schools; summer internship
programs for students and teachers at national laboratories; establishment
at each DOE national laboratory of a STEM Center of Excellence program
at a local high-need public school; and use of national laboratories
staff and scientific equipment to assist teachers.
Other bills initiated by the House S&T Committee and passed by
the House that may be brought to conference with portions of S. 761
are reauthorizations of NSF and NIST. The Senate bill also contains
provisions relating to the Department of Education. In the House, the
S&T Committee does not have jurisdiction over the Education Department.
The Education and Labor Committee, which does, is expected to come out
with its own competitiveness legislation, perhaps as part of the reauthorization
of No Child Left Behind.