To the surprise of many the bill to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act was passed by the lame duck Senate, then the House, just prior to Christmas in the last days of the 111th Congress. The Senate approved the bill by unanimous consent and the House voted 228 to 130 in favor of the measure. President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.
According to the House committee on Science and Technology, the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010 “aims to maintain our national economic and scientific leadership by supporting basic research; improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education; and fostering innovation, especially the development of new energy technologies.” The first Competes bill, signed into law by President Bush in 2007, was based on recommendations in the National Academies’ 2005 report Rising Above the Gathering Storm.
Key provisions in the new law for STEM education will:
- Create a White House panel to coordinate federal programs and activities in support of STEM education at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, and NASA.
- Provide grants to replicate and implement the UTeach model of programs at institutions of higher education that provide integrated courses of study in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, and teacher education, that lead to a baccalaureate degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics with concurrent teacher certification.
- Reduce the amount of institutional matching for Robert Noyce scholarship grants from 50 to 30 percent.
- Create research experiences for high school students, undergraduates, and STEM Industry programs.
- Establish a National Center for Science and Engineering Statistic at the National Science Foundation to serve as a central Federal clearinghouse for the collection, interpretation, analysis, and dissemination of objective data on science, engineering, technology, and research and development.
The bill also continues summer institutes at the national laboratories, and continues three programs at the Dept. of Education to increase teacher content knowledge and increase the number of teachers teaching and students taking AP/IB STEM classes.
Shortly after the bill’s passage, Rep. Bart Gordon, chairman of the Science and Technology committee and the author of the bill, who is retiring from Congress this year, stated “There is nothing that will have deeper, longer lasting, and more positive impact for our nation than this bill ... I cannot think of anything I would rather be doing, for what is likely my final act on this House floor after 26 years of service, than sending this bill to the President’s desk.”
The incoming chairman of the Science and Technology Committee, Rep. Ralph Hall, voted against the bill, citing the large cost of the bill and the limited time the House had to review the Senate bill. Sixteen Republicans did vote for the bill, including Reps Bartlett; Biggert; Bilbray; Capito; Cassidy; Castle; Dent; Ehlers; Gerlach; Tim Johnson; Chris Lee; McCaul; Reed; Reichert; Chris Smith; and Wolf.