Last month the House passed several competitiveness-related bills addressing science and math education, while the Senate passed a single piece of broader, comprehensive competitiveness legislation. All three bills were passed with significant bipartisan support. The question now is how and when the two chambers will reconcile the bills in conference. It is possible that the Senate will separate out portions of its bill and conference them with the complementary House bills. As authorizing legislation, these bills will not provide any actual funds, but the robust and bipartisan nature of their passage indicates the depth of support within the 110th Congress for initiatives focusing on U. S. competitiveness and STEM education.
The House bills, H.R. 362 and H.R. 363, were passed by the House on April 24. Both were introduced by House S&T Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN). H.R. 362, the "10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds" Science and Math Scholarship Act, which passed by a vote of 389-22, would authorize the expansion or revision of several NSF programs for STEM education and workforce development. Among its major provisions, the bill would expand the Robert Noyce Scholarship program, which provides scholarships to STEM majors who commit to several years of K-12 teaching. It would specify that NSF's Math and Science Partnership program give priority to applications that emphasize teacher preparation and development, including Master's degree programs for in-service math and science teachers. Additionally, it would amend the STEM Talent Expansion program to support centers for the improvement of undergraduate STEM education. H.R. 363, which passed 397-20, would authorize grant programs at NSF and at DOE's Office of Science to support promising scientists and engineers at early stages of their careers.
On the Senate side, S. 761, the "America COMPETES"Act, was passed on April 25 by a vote of 88-8 (see http://www.aip.org/fyi/2007/044.html). It contains many STEM education-related provisions relating to NSF, DOE, and the Education Department, some of which are highlighted below:
Within NSF, the act would: require the development of a program to recruit STEM professionals to become Teaching Fellows; ensure that the NSF and Education Department Math and Science Partnership programs "continue to work in concert;" target funds for NSF Teacher Institutes; establish a science laboratory equipment pilot program; target funds for the STEM Talent Expansion program; and authorize grants to higher education institutions for professional science master's degree programs.
Within the Education Department, the act would authorize: grants for programs integrating teacher education or certification with STEM degrees; grants for the development of part-time and full-time master's degree programs for teachers or teacher certification; grants to increase the number of qualified teachers teaching and students passing advanced placement or international baccalaureate courses; an NAS-initiated national best practices panel for K-12 STEM education; and grants to states to align K-12 STEM education with higher education and workforce needs and to improve statewide P-16 data collection systems.
Within DOE's Office of Science, it would authorize: grants to states for statewide specialty math and science schools; summer internship programs for students and teachers at national laboratories; establishment at each DOE national laboratory of a STEM Center of Excellence program at a local high-need public school; and use of national laboratories staff and scientific equipment to assist teachers.
Other bills initiated by the House S&T Committee and passed by the House that may be brought to conference with portions of S. 761 are reauthorizations of NSF and NIST. The Senate bill also contains provisions relating to the Department of Education. In the House, the S&T Committee does not have jurisdiction over the Education Department. The Education and Labor Committee, which does, is expected to come out with its own competitiveness legislation, perhaps as part of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind.