Bipartisan legislation supports NSF role

President's budget had moved math and science program to Dept. of Ed. Bill approved by committee returns control to NSF.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor
The House Science Committee approved legislation Wednesday that resurrects the National Science Foundation's Math and Science Partnerships program, after President Bush slated the program for huge cuts and eventual extinction in his 2007 budget, Inside HigherEd reports.
Under the president’s budget, the Department of Education would take over the task of teaming institutions of higher education with local schools to improve math and science education. The Education Department’s Math and Science Partnership program gives money to states based on student population and poverty rates, and the states then give out grants, whereas the NSF grants are administered through NSF’s proposal review process.

“We think it’s important that NSF does play a role in this,” said Tobin Smith, associate director of federal relations at the Association of American Universities. “The program at the Education Department never really provided any role for universities. The money went straight to school districts.”

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.) declared the president's plan a "mistake” and said that the committee needs “to work on this with the appropriators” to make sure it gets funded.

Republican committee chair Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) said “shame on” the government if science teacher training and curriculum implementation is left to the Education Department. Boehlert and Gordon sent a letter to members of the House Appropriations Committee urging them to finance the bill sufficiently in the name of American competitiveness.

An amendment by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) was approved to have NSF study the retention in the teaching profession of students who receive scholarships in exchange for committing to teach.

The committee unanimously approved the “Early Career Research Act,” which authorizes NSF and the Department of Energy’s Office of Science to give grants to young faculty members for high-risk research. The bill would also expand an NSF program that gives grants to colleges and universities to purchase equipment, like telescopes and supercomputers, that can be used collaboratively by both science and engineering departments.

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