Now that many of the appropriations hearings for FY 2005 have been held, and appropriations subcommittees look ahead to drafting their spending bills for the coming fiscal year, Members of Congress are voicing their funding priorities in letters to key appropriators. A letter signed by many Members of Congress is likely to have more influence on the appropriations process. Therefore, as many recent FYIs have indicated, there is a flurry of "Dear Colleague" letters circulating on Capitol Hill at this time, each seeking additional signatures to letters expressing funding priorities. For interested constituents, if a letter is circulating in the House or Senate about an agency or program you wish to support, this is the time to urge your Representative or Senators to sign on. Please note that deadlines for signatures vary with each letter.
A significant increase for the Education Department's Math and Science Partnership program is being sought by Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-MI) and Rush Holt (D-NJ). (See http://www.aip.org/enews/fyi/2004/017.html for information on the Education Department's Partnership program and the identically-named Partnership program within NSF.) They have prepared a letter to the Chairman of the House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, Ralph Regula (R-OH), asking for an increase in funding from the FY 2004 level of $150 million to $300 million in FY 2005 for the Partnerships. A copy of the letter will be sent to Ranking Minority Member David Obey (D-WI). A similar letter initiated by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate, requesting support for the Partnerships but not specifying a dollar amount, has already been sent to Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Ranking Member Tom Harkin (D-IA).
The text of the letter proposed by Reps. Ehlers and Holt is provided below. Ehlers and Holt are seeking the signatures of other House members by April 21. Those Representatives - both Republicans and Democrats - who have already signed on are: Ralph Hall (R-TX), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Denise Majette (D-GA), Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Richard Neal (D-MA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Mark Udall (D-CO), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and David Wu (D-OR).
"Dear Chairman Regula:
"As your subcommittee considers its priorities for the fiscal year 2005 appropriations legislation for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, we respectfully request that you provide $300 million in funding for the Math and Science Partnership program at the Department of Education [No Child Left Behind (NCLB), Title II, Part B].
"We are very grateful for your support of $150 million in the fiscal year 2004 budget. An appropriation of $300 million in fiscal year 2005 will help ensure that we reach the full funding goal of $450 million by the 2007-2008 school year, when science testing becomes mandatory in NCLB.
"Math and science education is the foundation of our knowledge-based economy. The prosperity Americans currently enjoy is attributable in large part to incredible innovations in science and technology. Our world-class research and development enterprise fuels the progress and productivity that underpin economic growth. Now more than ever, we must ensure the future of this enterprise – our math & science educational system.
"No Child Left Behind recognizes the need to ensure skills in math and science. Students are already required to be assessed in math, and science assessments are required by the 2007-2008 school year. The act also recognizes that teachers with high levels of content knowledge and access to professional development will most effectively teach their students.
"Unfortunately, we are seeing disturbing trends in student performance on basic math and science tests. Recently, in The Wall Street Journal, Intel Chief Executive Officer Craig Barrett commented, "Given how little we expect of our high-school graduates and how other nations are betting on education to fuel innovation, it should come as no surprise that our middle- and high-school students fare poorly on international comparisons of math and science achievement." Students from other countries are outperforming our own. The maintenance of our expertise and prosperity require that our students dramatically improve their math and science skills.
"The Math and Science Partnerships provide necessary professional development, which strengthens the teachers' ability to effectively teach math and science and strengthens our students' math and science skills. Through formula grants to every state, the Math and Science Partnerships provide crucial teacher professional development by linking school districts with university mathematics, science and engineering departments.
"We respectfully request that you continue to strengthen our math and science education system by providing $300 million for the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnership program."