NSTA Legislative Update
October 2, 2006

Programs for Science and Math Education Prominent in Senate Competitiveness Bill Introduced Last Week

On September 26 Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, M.D., (R-Tenn.) U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) introduced the National Competitiveness Investment Act (S.3936).

The bill, which largely implements the recommendations outlined in the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report Rising Above the Gathering Storm released last fall, contains a great many provisions for science and math education, including: grants to develop baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields with concurrent teaching certification; part-time master degree programs for in-service teachers; and grants for programs that will encourage more students to take Advanced Placement courses, enter International Baccalaureate programs, and better prepare teachers to teach these subjects.

The bill also creates 21st Century Teacher Institutes at the National Science Foundation (NSF), expands the Noyce Scholarship Fund to entice more STEM majors into teaching; provides funding increases for NSF education programs; and authorizes and extends a number of science education programs in NOAA and at the U.S. Department of Energy. Bill language would also authorize a doubling of the funding for basic federal research over the next five years at NSF and significantly expand funding for basic research at National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Energy's Office of Science and NASA.

The Senate did not vote on this bill before they adjourned; they won’t be back in session until after the November mid-term elections, but the bill may come up for a vote during the lame duck session. To read the section-by-section synopsis of the bill, visit http://www.nsta.org/nstaexpress/nstaexpress_2006_10_02_billsections.htm; for a copy of the entire bill, e-mail jpeterson@nsta.org.

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New NSF Education Chief Announced

Cora Marrett, chief academic officer for the University of Wisconsin system, will be the new director for the National Science Foundation Education and Human Resources (EHR) Directorate. The appointment ends a two-year search for an NSF director of education programs. Marrett is returning to NSF; she served for four years as the head of the NSF social and behavior sciences program in the 1960s.

According to Science magazine reporter Jeff Mervis, “Marrett says that she hopes to boost EHR's budget, using the public's heightened interest in science education as a lever, and increase collaborations with the rest of the foundation, other federal agencies, and the nonprofit sector. Although she says she doesn't come with an agenda, NSF Director Arden Bement hopes that she'll tackle the problem of low retention and graduation rates for undergraduates entering college with plans to major in science, as well as strengthening NSF's ties to the public schools and community colleges from which those students come.”

Marrett expects to join NSF in February. To read more, visit http://www.nsf.gov/publications/pub_summ.jsp?ods_key=pr06134.

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