As the FY 2006 appropriations process gets started, there is a lot of jockeying on Capitol Hill as lawmakers try to gain support for their favored programs. As indicated in FYI #50, some of this activity takes the form of "Dear Colleague" letters, in which Members seek the signatures of as many colleagues as possible on letters to key appropriators, encouraging strong funding for those programs. Three separate "Dear Colleague" letters are currently being circulated to support programs intended to improve science and math education. In the Senate, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) initiated a letter in support of the Education Department (ED) Math and Science Partnerships, and Senators John Rockefeller (D-WV), Norm Coleman (R-MN), and Richard Durbin (D-IL) are circulating a letter about the NSF Math and Science Partnerships (MSPs). In the House, Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Rush Holt (D-NJ), and Judy Biggert (R-IL) are seeking signatures in support of both the ED and NSF MSPs. For constituents who have an interest in any of these programs, this is an opportunity to contact your Representative or Senators and ask them to sign onto the appropriate House or Senate letter(s). However, the deadlines for Members to sign on are rapidly approaching.
SENATE LETTER ON ED MSPs: Sen. Roberts is circulating a letter asking Senators "to join me in writing the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education to ask for increased funding [of at least $269 million] for the Math and Science Partnerships program at the Department of Education." Additional signatures must be received by April 15.
SENATE LETTER ON NSF MSPs: Senators Rockefeller, Coleman and Durbin have issued a letter asking colleagues to "join us in writing to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science to express our strong support for mathematics and science education and to urge them to fund the NSF Mathematics and Science Partnership Program at a level that will permit the Foundation to continue to develop new and innovative approaches to math and science education.... [T]he NSF program is a key part of a strategy for improving math and science education, and there are signs that it is working. But neither current funding nor the funding level in the FY2006 Budget are sufficient to establish any new partnerships." The deadline for Members to sign onto this letter is April 12.
HOUSE LETTER ON ED AND NSF MSPs: Reps. Ehlers, Udall, Holt and Biggert are seeking colleagues' signatures on "letters to Chairman Regula of the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education subcommittee, and Chairman Wolf of the Science, State and Justice subcommittee requesting $400 million in funding for the Math and Science Partnership program and the Department of Education (ED) and $200 million in funding for the Math and Science Partnership program at the National Science Foundation." The letter continues, "The NSF Math and Science Partnerships provide a proving ground for competitively selected, innovative ideas. These ideas can then receive broader application through the ED's state-based grant program, which provides funds for every state to run a competitive grant process for partnerships between school districts and university departments of science, technology, engineering, and math. Businesses and other community organizations can also partner. Combined, these two distinct partnership programs provide necessary teacher professional development, which strengthens teachers' ability to effectively teach math and science and strengthens our students' math and science skills." The deadline for this letter is April 15.
LETTERS ON HOUSE AND SENATE STEM EDUCATION CAUCUSES: Additionally, the co-chairs of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Caucuses in both the House (Ehlers and Udall) and the Senate (Coleman and Durbin) have also sent out letters urging other Members to join these caucuses. "America's economic strength is rooted in its ability to innovate," Sens. Coleman and Durbin write. "A strong education in science, technology, engineering and math skills equip our students not just to hold their own but to advance the frontiers in fields important to our economy and security.... The more support we can provide to help keep our workforce on the cutting edge, the more robust our economy will be." Once again, if science education is a topic of interest to you, this is an opportunity to contact your Members and encourage them to join the caucus in their chamber.