House Approves $425-Million Math-Science Bill
Washington--The House of Representatives last week overwhelmingly approved a $425-million measure to improve mathematics and science education in schools and colleges, over the objections of President Reagan, who sought a much smaller bill.
The measure, HR 1310, is pending in the Senate, where it faces competition from numerous other measures designed to allevi-ate what many are calling the nation's science-and-mathematics crisis. It also faces possible opposition from the President, who asked that Congress spend only $70 million on science and mathematics education next year.
The bill, which would be administered jointly by the National Science Foundation and the Education Department, includes $250 million for improvement programs in elementary and secondary schools, along with funds for colleges to run inservice-training and summer programs for elementary and secondary teachers.
Before the 348-to-54 vote, numerous Representatives rose to praise the measure, citing shortages of trained teachers and competition from foreign countries as justification for allocating new funds for education programs.
Representative Carl D. Perkins, the Kentucky Democrat who sponsored the bill, compared the nation's current need to "the crisis our country faced in 1957 following the Sputnik launch."
"In that era, Congress enacted the National Defense Education Act. I feel strongly that the present conditions demand a renewal of the same sort of commitment," Mr. Perkins said.
Strong Republican Support
Although there was strong Republican support for the bill, a few Republican legislators--including John N. Erlenborn, ranking minority member of the Education and Labor Committee--spoke against the bill.
"We might just be throwing money at a problem with the hope that it would disappear," he said.
Representative Eldon Rudd, Republican of Arizona, called the measure "sloppy" and asked his colleagues to support the Administration's approach instead, which would fund the re-training of teachers.
The bill had almost unanimous support from education lobbyists, who hailed last Wednesday's vote as a victory.
Bill G. Aldridge, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, said his organization "started collecting data on this problem three years ago, and we've been testifying about it since then. It is fantastic to see the House talking about something that you've known about for so long and to see something finally being done about it."
The lopsided vote, said Dena G. Stoner, a lobbyist for the National School Boards Association, "means that an awful lot of Republicans acknowledge that the problem is bigger than the small amount of money the President asked for."
The lobbyists said they have turned their attention to the Senate, which began a series of hearings on science and mathematics education yesterday.
The Senate education subcommittee is considering, in addition to the House bill, a $400-million measure, S 530, supported by two members of the panel, including its chairman, Republican Robert T. Stafford of Vermont.
In addition, Senator Paul E. Tsongas, a Massachusetts Democrat, is seeking support for a bill to create a "technology education trust fund" that would support improvement programs through contributions from federal and private sources.
Other measures are also pending, and an aide to the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources said the committee, which has responsibility for crafting the Senate's version, is likely to choose elements from several of those bills.