Funding for selected science and math education initiatives at NSF and at the Department of Education would increase under two appropriations bills recently passed by the House Appropriations Committee. On June 13, appropriators in the House approved H.R. 5647, the FY 2007 Labor-HHS-Education spending bill. Under this bill, funding for the Department of Education's Mathematics and Science Partnership program would grow by more than 20 percent over the current budget. A week later, on June 20, the Appropriations Committee passed H.R. 5672, the FY 2007 Science, State, Justice, Commerce spending bill, which would boost funding for NSF's Education and Human Resources Directorate by more than 4 percent over the current level, but cut funding for NSF's Math and Science Partnerships.
In report language accompanying H.R. 5672, House appropriators indicated their belief that President Bush's American Competitiveness Initiative (ACI) should focus on strengthening NSF's education programs as well as its research activities. Under the president's FY 2007 funding request, the only education activities specified as part of the ACI are within the Department of Education (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2006/028.html). Additionally, the appropriators support the creation of a National Science Board Commission to address problems in K-12 science education and the NSF's role such issues.
Below are some highlights of the above-mentioned bills and selected quotations from the accompanying reports. For the complete text of the bills and reports, please see http://thomas.loc.gov:
NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION
House appropriators recommended a funding increase of 4.5 percent, or $35.8 million, for NSF's Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate, from $796.6 million to $832.4 million. The FY 2007 request was $816.2 million. Within this recommendation, the Committee would provide the requested $46.0 million for NSF's Math and Science Partnerships, a reduction of 27.2 percent, or $17.2 million. Specific language from the report (H. Rept. 109-520) follows:
"In light of the challenges facing the nation in improving math and science educational participation and achievement, the Committee believes that the American Competitiveness Initiative must not only bolster the NSF's basic research activities, but also its education programs. The most critical need in this regard is to improve K-12 and undergraduate education in science and math.
"The recommendation includes $21,000,000 for the Robert Noyce Scholarship Program, an increase of $11,000,000 above the request. The Noyce Program provides scholarships to math and science majors in return for a commitment to teaching. Improving undergraduate education is a key to increasing the American technological workforce, improving overall science literacy, and strengthening K-12 math and science education. The recommendation also includes an increase of $5,000,000 above the request for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), for a total program level of $105,000,000.
"The Committee recommendation also includes: $25,000,000 for Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeships; $46,000,000 for Math and Science Partnerships; $46,500,000 for Advanced Technology Education; $26,500,000 for STEM Talent Expansion Program; $107,000,000 for Discovery Research K-12; $30,000,000 for Historically Black Colleges and Universities Undergraduate Program; and $40,000,000 for Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation."
Regarding a National Science Board Commission, the report states, "The Committee recommendation includes $3,910,000 for the operations of the National Science Board, which is $39,000 below the current year level and the same as the request. The Committee strongly endorses the role of the National Science Board to conduct independent science policy analyses and oversight of the National Science Foundation.... Although many reports have raised alarm and documented potential solutions to the crisis in K-12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education, an action agenda focused on implementation is lacking. The Committee fully supports and encourages the National Science Board's creation of a new Commission on 21st Century Education in STEM. This Commission will develop a national action plan to address known K-12 problems; propose practical and affordable solutions; act as a catalyst for concerted action by the appropriate Federal agencies; and identify the explicit role of NSF in the context of the larger, national education system. The Board shall keep the Committee apprised of the Commission's progress, and deliver a final national action plan in mid-2007."
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The Education Department's Mathematics and Science Partnerships program would be increased by 23.5 percent, or $42.8 million, from $182.2 million to $225.0 million. The FY 2007 request was $182.2 million.
The accompanying report (H. Report 109-515) states, "The bill includes $225,000,000 for mathematics and science partnerships, $42,840,000 above both the budget request and the fiscal year 2006 level. This program promotes strong math and science teaching skills for elementary and secondary school teachers. Grantees may use program funds to develop rigorous math and science curricula, establish distance learning programs, and recruit math, science and engineering majors into the teaching profession. They may also provide professional development opportunities. Grants are made to States by formula based on the number of children aged 5 to 17 who are from families with incomes below the poverty line, and States then award the funds competitively to partnerships that must include the State agency, an engineering, math or science department of an institution of higher education, and a high-need school district. Other partners may also be involved. The Committee has increased funding for this program in response to the Administration's K-12 mathematics instruction initiative."
House appropriators did not support all of the Education Department science and math education initiatives proposed as part of President Bush's ACI, such as the elementary and middle school "Math Now" programs. The report language states, "The Committee supports efforts to improve mathematics instruction, but has concerns about beginning additional programs when ongoing programs exist that target math and science instruction."