Federal Math-Science Education Bill Set at $425 Million by Senate Panel
Washington--A $425-million measure to improve mathematics and science education was quickly approved by the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee last week.
The bill, a version of which has already been approved by the House, would provide funds for teacher training, curriculum development, fellowships, and other programs in schools and colleges, with joint funding from the National Science Foundation and the Education Department.
The measure includes more than $200 million in funds for block grants to school districts, and a $30-million "partnership" program to support projects initiated jointly by schools, colleges, and businesses. It is expected to come to the Senate floor next month.
The 16-2 vote on the measure came after little discussion. The staffs of the committee's ranking members from both parties had worked together to revise S530, the original bill that was approved by the education subcommittee.
The committee chairman, Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, had sought a bill with a more narrow focus and a funding level of $270 million, while the education subcommittee leaders had argued for a higher funding level.
Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island and one of the principal sponsors of the subcommittee bill, called the final, compromise version of the measure "a good bouillabaisse."
Senator Hatch called it "a reasonable and fair approach. The people of this nation are clearly interested in some national attention to the priority of math and science instruction," he said.
Only Senator Gordon J. Humphrey, Republican of New Hampshire, openly opposed the measure. The Senator expressed doubt about whether "more federal dollars are going to improve the education in this country."
"Federal dollars have gone up and up while Scholastic Aptitude Test scores have gone down and down," he said.
The committee's session was also attended by Senator Paul E. Tsongas, Democrat of Massachusetts, whose proposal for a "high-technology Morrill act" inspired the committee bill's "partnership" section.
The Senator said he was pleased the committee accepted the ideas embodied in his bill but added that he had hoped for more money for the program. The Senator had proposed spending $500 million a year.
The committee bill would include $350 million for programs operated by the Education Department, including $205 million for grants to school districts. Schools would be permitted to spend the funds on inservice training for teachers, instructional programs using computers, foreign-language instruction, and the purchase of equipment used in mathematics and science educa-tion. The department would also support state assessments of "the status of mathematics, science, foreign-language, and computer learning," including the availability and qualifications of teachers, state certification standards, the availability of curricula, and the degree of access to instruction of disadvantaged and gifted children. States would be permitted to fund local school districts' assessments of their the children's abilities and needs.
In addition, $3 million for research and evaluation by the National Institute of Education would be provided.
In the National Science Foundation, the bill would include: $20 million for teacher-training institutes, funded through competitive grants sought jointly by school systems and colleges; $20 million for fellowships for elementary and secondary teachers; $5 million for "Congressional merit scholarships" for potential mathematics, science, and engineering teachers and a Presidential awards program for outstanding teachers; and $30 million for the "partnership program."
The Tsongas-inspired program, called "partnerships in education for mathematics, science, and engineering," would require matching grants from businesses (30 percent) and state education agencies (20 percent).
The funds for the program would be given to state education agencies that had developed programs through the cooperation of businesses, colleges, school districts, scientific associations, museums, libraries, and educational television stations.
The funds could be used for the training of teachers by businesses; for employees of businesses who served as consultants, lecturers, or teaching assistants in the schools; or for high-school students who work in science-related businesses.