Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) have jointly introduced legislation to coordinate the nation’s STEM education initiatives. The Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Act of 2008 (H.R. 6104) was introduced on May 21 in both chambers. Cosponsors include Reps. George Miller (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Education; Vernon Ehlers (R-MI); and Rush Holt (D-NJ).
H.R. 6104 is apparently spurred by separate reports from the Academic Competitiveness Council (ACC) and the National Science Board (NSB) that found serious impediments to making meaningful progress in the STEM areas.
ACC was established by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 to identify, evaluate, and make recommendations on all federal programs with a math and science education focus. An inventory of the government’s various agencies found 105 unique STEM education programs with approximately $3.12 billion in total Fiscal Year 2006 funding. The May 2007 ACC report suggested that - among other points - the federal government should promulgate information about effective educational practices, improve coordination of federal K-12 STEM education programs with states and local school systems, and said funding for federal STEM education programs should not increase unless a scheme for independent analysis of those programs is in place.
NSB’s own October 2007 report concluded the U.S. was failing to meet the STEM education needs of students, and in doing so, threatened the nation’s economic security. NSB, which provides oversight for the National Science Foundation (NSF), released their report at the Capitol Building with Reps. Holt, Honda, and Ehlers in attendance. NSB recommended the creation of a non-Federal National Council for STEM Education to coordinate STEM programs, a standing committee on STEM within the National Science and Technology Council, a new Assistant Secretary of Education position to coordinate the Department of Education’s STEM efforts, and a detailed NSF plan to improve STEM education.
H.R. 6104 would create a working STEM education committee at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). The new OSTP STEM Education Committee would coordinate efforts between Federal agencies, set annual goals for STEM education, and develop a 5-year projection of the STEM workforce.
The bill would also create an Office of STEM Education at the Department of Education to coordinate STEM efforts. This division would be responsible for boosting programs for underrepresented populations in the STEM fields, and managing the Math and Science Partnerships, Math Now, Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow, and Minority Science and Engineering Improvement programs. Finally, the Office would be tasked with enhancing communications between various levels of government and improving STEM teacher quality.
Sen. Obama and Rep. Honda’s bill intends to create a voluntary State Consortium on STEM Education. The Consortium would establish an Interstate Council on STEM Education to identity weaknesses in the STEM education system, and possible remedies. The Council would also develop common content standards, curriculum tools, and assessments for K-12 STEM education.
Lastly, H.R. 6104 creates the National STEM Education Research Repository (NSERR), a central hub for federally funded STEM education research. NSERR is designed to serve as a clearing house for teachers and administrators to access information on best practices and exemplary programs.