Technology Bill Approved
Legislation to promote the use of telecommunications technology to compensate for the shortage of mathematics, science, and foreign-language teachers last week won the approval of the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee.
The bill, S778, would authorize $100 million over the next five years to aid states and multi-state consortiums in acquiring satellite-communications hardware. The "star schools program'' is designed to enable educational networks to transmit lessons to many schools, including those in isolated locations.
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is the measure's principal sponsor, said the bill could provide a relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of teacher shortages.
"The National Science Board reports that by 1995 we will need twice as many teachers in math and science as we have today,'' Mr. Kennedy said. "But for every qualified math and science [graduate] entering the [teaching] field, 13 are leaving for greener pastures.''
"The cost of a traditional national program to recruit, train, hire, and upgrade the nation's math and science teachers, so that American students would have qualified instruction, is between $10 billion and $20- billion,'' the Senator estimated.
In contrast, the star program would have a funding ceiling of $60- million in a single year, he said. Also, the program would encourage "cooperation between businesses, secondary schools, teacher-training centers, and the higher-education community'' to explore the possibilities of new technology.
Those receiving grants will be required to provide a description of their networks' course offerings to the Education Department, Mr. Kennedy said. "Over time, the program will become a national project of shared education resources.''
The measure also would require the Office of Technology Assessment, a Congressional research agency, to study the feasibility of "designing, building, and launching a satellite for educational purposes and [to analyze] the ability of users of such a system to repay the costs.''
In other action, the Senate subcommittee on education, arts, and the humanities approved S 320, a measure to support dropout-prevention and re-entry demonstration projects. The bill would provide $50 million in grants to schools for such efforts to help "at risk'' youths.
A similar measure passed the House last year, but not the Senate. The full Labor and Human Resources Committee is expected to vote on the dropout-prevention program this week.