Status Report

AIP FYI #109: Federal Actions on Science Education

By SpaceRef Editor
August 10, 2004
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Over the past few months, federal policymakers have taken a number
of actions that deal with science and math education, and with
encouraging more students to pursue careers in related fields. In
the House, appropriators have marked up bills that would boost
appropriations for the Education Department’s Math and Science
Partnership program, but cut funding for the similar program at
NSF. At the Department of Energy, a new science education
initiative to provide assistance to teachers and encouragement to
students was announced last month. Additionally, a Homeland
Security Education Act has been proposed in the Senate that would
seek to increase the number of students pursuing degrees in S&T
fields and foreign languages.

Before leaving town for the August recess, members of the House
Appropriations Committee approved an FY 2005 Labor-HHS-Education
appropriations bill on July 13. While the full text of the
committee’s bill and accompanying report are not yet publicly
available, it has been reported that the committee recommended $269
million for the Department of Education’s Math and Science
Partnership (MSP) program. This would represent an increase of 80
percent, or $120 million, over FY 2004 funding of $149 million. As
readers may recall, the Administration requested $269 million for FY
2005, but would have used the $120 million increase for a new
initiative focused strictly on improving secondary-school
mathematics education. Initial reports indicate that under the
committee’s bill, the additional funds would not be fenced off for
this purpose, but would increase total funding for the MSPs. House
floor action on the Labor-HHS-Education bill must wait until
Congress returns in September.

As reported in FY #99, House appropriators also passed an FY 2005
VA/HUD spending bill that would provide $82.5 million for NSF’s Math
and Science Partnerships, essentially the same amount as requested
by the White House as a first step in phasing out this program.
This is 40 percent, or $56.7 million, below the FY 2004 level of
$139.2 million. According to the draft committee report, funding
for the MSP program would remain in NSF’s Education and Human
Resources (EHR) Activity instead of being transferred to Integrative
Activities as proposed by the Administration.

In related news, initiatives to improve science education have been
proposed for several federal agencies.

At DOE, on July 8 Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham announced a
program by which the department and its national laboratories would
help promote and enhance science education through grades K-12 and
beyond. The seven-step initiative, called STARS: Scientists
Teaching and Reaching Students, incorporates the following
components: A program to bring K-12 and community college
instructors to DOE national labs to work with scientists; expansion
of Argonne National Laboratory’s “Ask A Scientist” website, with a
link from DOE’s home page; expected annual “What’s Next” conferences
to focus student and public attention on innovative and breakthrough
technologies; Career Days when DOE scientists would visit local
schools; Science Appreciation Days when national labs would host
students; use of prominent DOE scientists to promote science as a
career; and establishment of an Office of DOE Science Education to
coordinate and implement the initiative. In his announcement,
Abraham stated, “It is critical that we leverage the resources of
this Department…to help create a new generation of scientists who
will achieve the scientific breakthroughs and technological advances
so essential to our future security and prosperity.” The full text
of Abraham’s remarks and more information on the initiative are
available at, under DOE Science Education

In another attempt to ensure that federal agencies will have the S&T
workforce they need for the future, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL)
introduced a Homeland Security Education Act (S. 2299) that calls
for the Secretary of Education to establish a student loan interest
forgiveness program for certain students receiving undergraduate
degrees in science, math, engineering and some foreign languages.
It would also establish grant programs and partnerships between K-12
schools and institutions of higher education to encourage students
to develop proficiency and pursue degrees in the fields of foreign
languages, science, math and engineering, and partnerships between
K-12 school districts and the private sector to help upgrade science
curricula, labs, equipment and teaching skills. Durbin, with
Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) as co-sponsors,
introduced his bill this spring, and it has been referred to the
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where it
awaits consideration.

Audrey T. Leath

Media and Government Relations Division

The American Institute of Physics

(301) 209-3094

SpaceRef staff editor.