Congress Passes Competitiveness Legislation | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: August 6, 2007

Congress Passes Competitiveness Legislation

Lawmakers boost federal spending in a bid to strengthen U.S. math and science education
Department: Government & Policy, Education | Collection: Stimulus Funding
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography
Credit: Peter Cutts Photography

Congress has given final approval to landmark legislation aimed at making America more competitive in the global marketplace through substantial increases in federal R&D funding and science and math education.

The America Competes Act (H.R. 2272) authorizes a total of $33.6 billion over the next three fiscal years for science, technology, engineering, and math education programs across the federal government. It also authorizes multiple grant programs at various federal agencies to further educate current and future teachers in science and math.

Passage of the legislation drew immediate praise from a number of scientific organizations, including the American Chemical Society. "This bill is a huge victory for science and for our country," says ACS President Catherine T. Hunt. "The need to train more and better scientists, invest in world-class scientific facilities, and provide our leading researchers the resources that will lead to transformational scientific breakthroughs has never been greater."

On Aug. 2, the House adopted the legislation by a vote of 367???57, while the Senate endorsed the measure by unanimous consent. The bill now goes to the White House, where President George W. Bush is expected to sign it.

"Keeping America competitive will help us keep good jobs on our nation's shores and ensure our ability to compete in a global marketplace," says House Science & Technology Committee Chairman Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.). "That process begins with a high-quality educational system and follows with ideas and investments in people here at home."

The bill also puts research programs at NSF, the National Institute of Standards & Technology, and the Department of Energy's Office of Science on a path to double their budgets during the next decade. The actual amount of money to be spent will be determined by the appropriations committees of the House and Senate.

The legislation is largely based on recommendations in the 2005 National Academies' report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing American for a Brighter Economic Future," which concluded that the U.S. is falling behind other countries in math and science education. The report found that about two-thirds of the students studying chemistry and physics in U.S. high schools receive instruction from a teacher who is lacking a degree or certification in the field.

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