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Support Increases for Bill To Bolster Math, Science

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Washington--The support expressed last week by both political parties for a federal program to improve mathematics and science education is likely to be translated quickly into Congressional action, according to Capitol Hill sources.

Those sources said Education Department officials are already drafting a bill to respond to President Reagan's call, in the State of the Union Message, for an "initiative to encourage a substantial upgrading of math and science instruction."

And the day after the Democratic party responded with its own call for improvement in those curricular areas, the House Committee on Education and Labor began hearings on a new bill sponsored by its chairman, Representative Carl D. Perkins, Democrat of Kentucky.

In an interview, Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell described the Administration's bill as "a very simple approach."

"We would offer block grants to the states," he said, "to provide fellowships for persons who have college degrees and could--after one year of study--qualify to be high-school math or science teachers."

'Matching' Funds

The Administration's proposal would distribute $50 million among the states, based on the number of high-school-age residents. The bill would require "matching" funds, of equal amounts, from states and school systems, Mr. Bell said.

The aim of the proposal is to increase the supply of teachers as early as the 1984-85 school year, the Secretary said.

"We need to get a quick response to our funding, because we believe there's going to be a shift in the curriculum as states raise their graduation requirements," he said. "If all high schools in the country raised their mathematics graduation requirements by one unit," Mr. Bell continued, "the demand for math teachers would increase by 34,000."

Chairman Perkins's bill, known as the "emergency mathematics and science education act," would provide $300 million for science and mathematics programs in schools and colleges.

Of the total, $250 million would be a block-grants package to the states, from which money would be allocated to school districts, according to John F. Jennings, counsel to Representative Perkins.

Training, Other Programs

Funds under the bill could be spent for teacher training, evaluation of schools' resources, development of mathematics and science courses, technology, or community-based programs, he said.

The remaining $50 million would be spent for postsecondary programs and research, Mr. Jennings said.

The Perkins bill has received the endorsement of numerous education groups, including the National Science Teachers Association.

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