Chairman Bart Gordon (D-TN) of the House Science and Technology Committee may attain his goal of passing the America COMPETES reauthorization (H.R. 5116) through the House before the end of May. The bill has already been approved by the committee, as mentioned in the May 3rd Legislative Update post, and is scheduled to move to the House Floor as early as tomorrow. Last week, in addition to the bill’s sponsor Rep. Bart Gordon, one-hundred and one co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle signed on in support of this landmark legislation.
COMPETES was also the topic of a recent dialogue in the Senate. Last week, the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation held a hearing entitled America Wins When America COMPETES: Building a High-Tech Workforce. Witnesses testifying before the committee represented Discovery Communications, Wood County Schools, University of Maryland, the National Math and Science Initiative, and Triangle Coalition Member, the National Center for Technological Literacy (NCTL).
Ranking Member Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) mentioned her plans to introduce legislation around the UTeach Program to help colleges and universities recruit and prepare students who major in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) to become certified as elementary school teachers. “I hope as we move forward this can be included in the America COMPETES Act reauthorization,” she said.
Dr. Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director of the Museum of Science, Boston and Founding Director of the NCTL recommended that Congress should include the Engineering Education (E2) for Innovation Act, S. 3043, as part of the America COMPETES or as part of the STEM initiative under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). “K-12 engineering education will catalyze the development of a highly skilled STEM workforce necessary to insure our global competitiveness and national security,” stated Dr. Miaoulis. The Triangle Coalition and many of its members have also signed on in support of this initiative.
Miaoulis also called attention to the fact that many of COMPETE’s goals set forth under the 2007 law, especially those related to STEM education, did not materialize because many of the funds were never appropriated. “Although some programs were funded either through appropriations or the Recovery Act,” said Miaoulis, “my concern is that very little was done in the K-12 STEM education space and even less was done for informal science education.”
“With America COMPETES we planted the seeds of something very powerful, but we have to nurture the investment if we want to reap its benefits.” stated Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV). “The authorizations in that legislation expire this year and, as we look toward reauthorization, we need to evaluate our progress.”
The Congressional Budget Office recently released the new budget report, detailing the estimated $86 billion in spending on COMPETES for 2011-2015. The House Science and Technology Committee has also posted a Legislative Highlights summary and full text of the COMPETE bill on its website, with STEM education featured in Title III.
Update 5/13/10: COMPETES has just been pulled from the House Floor and will be sent back to the committee because of Republicans’ objections to the budget and to a recent National Science Foundation scandal involving employees viewing pornography. Find out more at “COMPETES Pulled from House Floor.”