Friday, 7 January, 2011

STEM Education: Who’s Who in the 112th Congress

Now that the 112th Congress is officially in office, we can begin to examine who the new players will be in education, specifically science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. With the GOP now in control of the House, the committees and subcommittees are under new Republican leadership. Not only have the players changed, but the names of a few committees have changed too. The House Education and Labor Committee is now the Education and the Workforce Committee; and the House Science and Technology Committee will now be called the Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

Former Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and Rep. John Kline (R-MN) have swapped positions on the Education and Workforce Committee, with Kline now serving as the new chair. Kline announced the 112th Republican committee members here. Kline has expressed that his priorities will focus on certainty and simplicity in federal regulations, and promoting innovation in schools and workplaces. Simplicity and minimalism seem to be the themes among this new Congress as budgets are tightened and programs become scrutinized.

Kline has selected the following members to serve as education subcommittee chairs: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness; and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education

Former ranking member Ralph Hall (R-TX) is the new Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Hall replaces retired Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN), author of the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5116). Hall voted against the COMPETES Act which passed as a last minute surprise at the end of the lame duck session. Hall has pledged now to conduct rigorous oversight to the programs in the bill. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) has been named Ranking Member of this committee.

The new House Appropriations Committee Chair is Hal Rogers (R-KY), who, like Hall and most Republicans, also opposed the COMPETES Act. With COMPETES passed and now signed into law by President Obama, the question going forward is what level will be appropriated. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House, said in a recent blog post, “Full funding of the COMPETES Act is among the most important things that Congress can do to ensure America’s continued leadership in the decades ahead.”

In addition to the retirement of Bart Gordon, a few other STEM education advocates will also be missed this year. After serving eight terms, one of STEM’s biggest champions, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), retired. He served on both the committees on Education and Labor, and Science and Technology, and was also co-chair of the STEM Education Caucus. Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), who worked with Ehlers across the aisle on STEM education legislation, also retired. Rep. Mike Castle (R-DE), another STEM advocate and former ranking Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, ran for Senate and lost the election in the primaries.

Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) has been selected to replace Ehlers and serve as co-chair of the STEM Education Caucus along with Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL). “My background is in manufacturing, and one of the most important ways we can strengthen this and other highly-skilled industries here at home is by investing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and training,” said Lee in this article. “I look forward to working with Dan to ensure students interested in these critical fields have access to the resources they need to succeed so we can grow our economy and create jobs.”

To read more about what’s in store for 2011, check out these edu-predictions:

ASCD predicts What’s Hot and What’s Not in Education for 2011
TIME.com has Andrew Rotherham’s 11 Education Activists for 2011


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