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2 Bills To Promote Science Education Advance in House

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Washington--The House Science and Technology Committee last week approved a $500-million, five-year program to improve school and college science programs and to increase the supply of science teachers in American schools.

The bill, "the national engineering and science manpower act," includes $50 million, which would be administered by the National Science Foundation (nsf), to support inservice-training programs for elementary- and secondary-school teachers.

In another move that could benefit schools' science programs, the full House last week approved a measure that would grant a liberal federal tax deduction to computer firms that donate equipment to the schools.

That measure, HR 5573, is known as the "Apple bill," because it has been widely promoted by the computer company, Apple Inc. The bill would extend a tax deduction already available to firms that donate equipment to colleges and universities. Under the proposal, donated equipment must be no more than six months old, must be appropriate for use in instructional programs, and must be distributed to schools through local boards of education.

First Proposals in Congress

The two measures are the first of the numerous proposals to improve science education to see action in the Congress. Similar bills are also moving through several House committees, although enactment of any of them is considered unlikely until next year.

Hearings were scheduled for this week in the House Education and Labor Committee on one of the most comprehensive plans to address schools' shortages of trained science and mathematics teachers, a measure known as the "American defense education act."

The bill--sponsored by the committee's Democratic chairman, Carl D. Perkins of Kentucky--would provide federal grants to schools that established programs to improve not only science and mathematics programs, but communications and foreign-language programs as well. A similar bill was introduced in the Senate last week by Senator Claiborne Pell, Republican of Rhode Island.

Proposals similar to the science committee's bill and the Apple bill have also been introduced in the Senate, but Senate committees have taken no action to approve them.

The science committee's bill, HR 7130, combines the provisions of bills introduced earlier this year by the committee chairman, Representative Doug Walgren, Democrat of Pennsylvania; Representative Don Fuqua, Democrat of Florida; and Representative Margaret M. Heckler, Republican of Massachusetts.

Although most of its provisions would benefit university science programs, precollege science instruction could also benefit from a $60 million "general discretionary fund," which would be administered by the nsf director and a new seven-member advisory council to be appointed by the President.

Money from the discretionary fund would be distributed to schools and colleges that were able to secure "matching grants" from private sources to improve their science programs, according to Paul C. Maxwell, a science consultant on the committee staff.

"We do face a crisis in the long run," said Representative Walgren in support of the committee's proposal. "The workforce is going to have to change its skills to work with sophisticated technology. We don't have some of the teaching capability we should, and our educational systems are falling behind," he said.

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