Below are updates on several pieces of legislation affecting K-12 science education:
FY 2004 Appropriations for Education Department Math and Science Partnerships:
In the House, the appropriations subcommittees are beginning to draft their FY 2004 spending bills. The Labor, HHS, Education subcommittee has marked up its bill, which includes funding for programs within the Department of Education. Reports indicate that the subcommittee would provide $150 million for the Education Department's Mathematics and Science Partnership program. This program provides funds to collaborations of university science, math or engineering departments, state and high-need local education authorities, and other partners, for activities to improve K-12 science or math instruction.
The Math and Science Partnership program was authorized in President Bush's hallmark education legislation, "No Child Left Behind," at $450 million. It was funded at $12.5 million in FY 2002, and received just over $100 million for FY 2003. President Bush's FY 2004 request for the program is $12.5 million. The House subcommittee's recommendation of $150 million is sufficient to ensure that funds will go to all states, and continues the progress toward the full authorization level. The Labor-HHS-Education bill is expected to be marked up by the full House Appropriations Committee this week. Appropriators in the Senate are also hoping to get their Labor-HHS-Education bill marked up by both the subcommittee and full appropriations committee before the week's end.
As reported in FYI #59, the American Institute and seven of its Member Societies signed an April letter sent to Members of Congress by the K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education Coalition, which urged appropriators to provide $200 million in FY 2004 for the Education Department's Partnership program.
There is a complementary, but not identical, Mathematics and Science Partnership program within NSF. Funding for this NSF Partnership program is under the jurisdiction of the VA/HUD appropriations subcommittees, which have not marked up their bills yet.
Teacher Loan Forgiveness Bill:
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) has introduced a bill that would increase the amount of student loan forgiveness that would be available to teachers of science, math, and special education. Current law states that any teacher who receives a government loan for education can be forgiven up to $5,000 of that student loan if he or she agrees to teach for five years in high-need school. The "Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2003" (H.R. 438) would increase the level of loan forgiveness to $17,500 for science, math and special education teachers. The bill has been passed by the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and is expected to reach the House floor after the July 4 recess.
Teacher Recruitment Bill:
The House Education and the Workforce Committee has also approved another bill addressing recruitment and retention of teachers. The "Ready to Teach Act of 2003" (H.R. 2211), sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingery (R-GA), would authorize $300 million in each of the years FY 2004-2008 for competitive grants, made by the Secretary of Education, to attract students to teaching, improve teacher preparation and professional development programs, and help local education agencies provide merit pay for teachers in certain fields such as science and math. According to reports, this bill includes a provision, sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), that would promote recruitment of professionals in science, math, engineering and technology fields to K-12 science and math teaching.