$400-Million Math-Science Bill Is Approved by Senate Panel
Washington--A Senate education subcommittee gave its unanimous approval last week to a $400-million measure designed to help improve the quality of mathematics and science education in the nation's schools.
In March, the House approved a similar mathematics- and science-education bill that carries a $425-million price tag.
The Senate bill, S503, now moves to the Labor and Human Resources Committee, where action is scheduled for the first week in May.
Senators attending last week's mark-up session before the Subcommittee on Education, the Arts, and the Humanities indicated that the bill is likely to be drastically revised by the full committee.
The main thrust of the bill is to provide states with funds to develop training programs for current mathematics and science teachers and retraining programs for teachers in other disciplines to help them specialize in the teaching of mathematics, science, or computer education. According to the bill's current version, when school districts could prove that they have already met their teacher-training needs, they would be allowed to use their funds for computer or foreign-language instruction, and instructional materials and equipment for mathematics and science classes.
Funds for Training
Currently, the bill would funnel funds for the training of teachers to the states through the Education Department. A number of Senators, including the chairman of the full committee, Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, have indicated that they want those programs to be funded through the National Science Foundation.
Senator Hatch has also indicated that he wants the bill drafted in a way that would allow the founda-tion to sponsor seminars for teachers during the summer. Currently, the bill simply authorizes states to award competitive grants to colleges and universities, which would then develop and sponsor training seminars for teachers.
Senator Hatch also said that he plans to offer an amendment to the bill that would cut by more than one-third the amount that the government would be allowed to spend on the programs.
"Frankly, $400 million is too high," he told the the subcommittee members. He added that he believes that President Reagan "could support a bill with an authorization level around $270 million."
Senator Dan Quayle, Republican of Indiana, also pointed out that the Senate Budget Committee recently announced that it wants the chamber to authorize Education Department expenditures of no more than $230 million next year on efforts to improve mathematics and science education.
"Right now we're almost $200 million over the budget resolution," he said.
In addition, Senator Quayle said he was not pleased with the way the bill would allocate money to school districts. The current version would require states to allocate half of the funds based on per-pupil enrollment, with the other half earmarked for school districts enrolling educationally disadvantaged students.
"I guess I don't understand why we're focusing this money on [disadvantaged] students," Senator Quayle said.
"This program is supposed to have an entirely different purpose. States like mine, with large rural populations, aren't going to do as well under such a formula."
If the full committee agrees to revise the bill, as now seems likely, it will not be the first time that the measure has undergone significant revision.
The subcommittee originally planned complete action on the measure on April 14, but a day earlier its chairman, Senator Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont, received a letter from a number of educational organizations saying they could not support it in its current form.
According to John Martin, a spokesman for the Council of Chief State School Officers, the organizations' main criticism of the bill was that "it spread too few dollars over too wide an area."
Furthermore, he said, the groups wanted the bill to give school districts more flexibility in the way they spent their allocations.
The subcommittee, in response to the letter and to concerns raised by several senators, canceled the session and began rewriting major sections of the bill.
For example, the subcommittee deleted a section of the bill that would have required the states to match the federal dollars on a one-for-one basis. The panel also deleted portions of the bill that would have required states to spend 35 percent of their allocations on vocational-education programs and another 15 percent on foreign-language instruction.