Friday, April 27, 2007

America COMPETES bill passes the Senate!

Every since the STEM conference I attended last month (I blogged about it here and here), I have been closely following the America COMPETES act. While catching up on my BlogLines account this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it passed in the Senate!!

Here are a few highlights from the story
  • "The bill would authorize a doubling of the National Science Foundation’s budget within five years and add an array of new programs intended to support risk-taking research."
Highlights from another article about it:
  • Drawing wide support from Democrats and Republicans, the Senate approved legislation dramatically increasing federal funding for research. The bill also seeks to jump start a revival of student interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs from elementary to graduate schools.
  • The 206-page bill passed on an 88-8 vote after more than three days of debate.
  • To attract more students and teachers to STEM studies, the bill would create programs, grants and scholarships, including expanding statewide specialty schools in math and science. Several other programs in the bill focus on improving the skills of STEM teachers.
  • The passage of the America Competes Act follows approval Tuesday afternoon in the U.S. House of two bills also aimed at improving America's competitiveness. The legislation envisions 25,000 new STEM teachers to prepare the U.S. workforce for a 21st Century economy. A second bill provides grants for young scientists to pursue high-risk research.
  • IA President George Scalise said the bills are an "important step toward advancing two important goals -- supporting basic scientific research at U.S. universities and preparing more American students to pursue careers in science and engineering."
  • Lezlee Westine, president and CEO of TechNet, added, "To maintain our status as the most competitive and innovation nation in the world, we must make strategic financial and intellectual investments that will guarantee our national and economic security for generations to come."
Highlights from another version of the story:
  • The House of Representatives is also debating legislation that would increase funding for teacher education, creation of magnet schools, and partnerships with federal agencies to enhance competitiveness.
A little more on that topic from this article:
  • Senate passage came a day after the House approved legislation intended to boost the number of highly qualified math and science teachers in U.S. schools. The bill, which passed 389-22, would authorize more than $600 million through 2012 for scholarships and stipends for college students studying math and science in preparation for teaching careers. They could receive annual scholarships of $10,000 if they commit to teaching elementary or secondary pupils upon graduation.
Oh boy, even more bills/acts to follow on these same topics:
  • Specifically, H.R. 362, the Science and Math Scholarship Act, and H.R. 363, the Sowing the Seeds through Science and Engineering Research Act, are designed to help eliminate the shortage of skilled workers in the U.S. (link to article)
  • H.R. 362, also known as the "10,000 Teachers" bill, would establish programs at universities to recruit strong students majoring in science, math, and engineering into careers in teaching, and provide those students with specialized education courses. Students would receive scholarships amounting to $10,000 per year.
  • The bill also would provide in-service training to math and science teachers to improve content knowledge and teaching skills through specially tailored master's degree programs and summer institutes.
  • Finally, the bill would strengthen existing programs at universities designed to expand the pool of undergraduate students who will become the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians.
One more tid-bit of info I hadn't seen in any of the other articles was reported here:
  • The measure is being called the America Competes Act and now
    goes to the House. It would create science magnet schools, each of
    which would be adopted by one of the Energy Department's national
This is all so very exciting to me. I'm so glad to see such an interest in STEM areas and to see the government coming together to support it. This is where I wish I knew how to be more involved. The School House Rocks song of How a Bill Becomes a Law is playing in my head now, but the formal process neglects to mention how the average-joe can get involved with all this political stuff! Any ideas on how to be more involved politically on topics like this???

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