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ACTION ALERT: Representatives Needed to Support Math and Science Partnerships

(Posted 8-20-03)


This update was originally sent out as an e-mail message to AGI's member societies.

IN A NUTSHELL: A trio of House members are asking their colleagues to sign a letter supporting increased funding for the Math/Science Partnership program at the Department of Education. They will send the letter during the first week of September to the members of the House Appropriations subcommittee that funds the Department of Education. AGI urges geoscientists to contact their representatives between now and Labor Day to recommend that they sign on to the Ehlers-Holt-Biggert letter. The text of the "Dear Colleague" letter is included in this message. Additional signatures for the letter must be received by Labor Day (September 1, 2003), so please call or e-mail in the next two weeks.

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As part of the No Child Left Behind Act, Congress created a new program in the Department of Education designed to improve math and science education -- the Math/Science Partnership (MSP). The program consists of partnerships between local school districts, colleges, and other groups including businesses and business organizations. These partnerships can address a variety of education issues, including teacher training and professional development, curriculum development, distance learning, and exchange programs. The program must have clear evaluations and accountability measurements, which include increasing the number of math and science teachers participating in professional development and increasing student performance on math and science assessments.

The need for these partnerships is recognized not just by the scientific and educational communities, but also by business leaders. Craig Barrett of Intel, Tom Engibous of Texas Instruments, and Henry McKinnell of Pfizer are just a few of the chief executives who strongly (and vocally) support increased funding for the Math/Science Partnership, recognizing that math and science education improvements are critical to the future competitiveness of their companies.

While Congress authorized $450 million for this program, actual spending for the program this year was $100 million. The administration only requested $12.5 million to be spent in Fiscal Year (FY) 2004.

On July 10, 2003, the House approved the FY 2004 budget for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (H.R. 2660). Included in this budget is a $50 million boost for the MSP program over the FY 2003 level. Given the tough economy and budgetary constraints facing members of the Appropriations Committee, this represents a significant increase for the program, a 50% ramp-up in spending to $150 million for FY 2004.

The Senate, however, will most likely approve level funding for this program in the coming year -- $100 million. When the House and Senate form a Conference Committee to work out the differences in their spending priorities for the Department of Education, the House negotiators will need support from their colleagues in order to retain the $150 million funding level for MSP.

On August 14, 2003, Reps. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Judy Biggert (R-IL) sent a letter asking their colleagues to join them in supporting the $150 million funding level for MSP when the House and Senate convene a conference committee. They plan to send the letter to the House conferees during the first week in September.

Please call your representative and ask him or her to sign on to the Ehlers-Holt-Biggert letter by Labor Day. The U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) will connect you to your representative's office. E-mail messages can be sent to your representative via the Write Your Representative website at http://www.house.gov/writerep/.

When you talk to your representative's staff, let them know who they should contact to add their Member to the list: If Republican, then Rachel Post in Rep. Vernon Ehlers office (202-225-3831); if Democrat, then Chris Hartmann in Rep. Holt's office (202-225-5801). Just to reiterate, these are the people whom staff should call to add their Member to the list, not the individuals whom we are asking geoscientists to contact.

Thank you for acting on this request for action. Please let us know if you make a contact or if you have any questions: govt@agiweb.org, 703-379-7563 x. 212, fax 703-379-7563.

Text of Ehlers-Holt-Biggert Dear Colleague Letter

September 2, 2003

Hon. Ralph Regula, Chairman
House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
2358 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6023

Hon. David Obey, Ranking Member
House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education
2358 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-6023

Dear Chairman Regula and Ranking Member Obey:

As the Conference Committee considers its priorities for the fiscal year 2004 appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, we encourage you to increase funding for the Math and Science Partnership program at the Department of Education to $150 million, as set in the House version of this bill.

Mandatory science testing will be required of all students by the 2007-2008 school year. It is crucial that we fully fund the authorized amount of $450 million for this program by that year. We are very grateful for your support of $100 million in the fiscal year 2003 budget, and appropriations of $150 million in fiscal year 2004 will help ensure we reach this goal.

Sustaining America's technological, economic, and military leadership demands improvements in science, math, and engineering education at all levels. In 2001, the Commission on National Security for the 21st Century wrote: "the inadequacies of our systems of research and math and science education pose a great threat to U.S. national security." Today's high school students are not performing well in math and science, and a decreasing of American students are pursuing degrees in technical fields. America's K-12 students score far below the best in the world on domestic and international tests.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has launched a complementary Math and Science Partnerships program designed to develop model partnerships and best practices to improve science and math education. However, because it awards grants through a competitive procedure, the NSF will not provide every state with targeted funds for math and science professional development. In contrast, Education Department partnerships that focus on implementing and scaling up the models and best practices identified by the NSF would provide much-needed funding to every state through formula grants.

By creating the Math and Science Partnership program as part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Congress affirmed the critical importance of improving math and science at all grade levels. The partnerships link school districts with university science, math and engineering departments to provide high quality, sustained professional development activities for K-12 math and science teachers.

We urge you to continue to improve our nation's K-12 math and science education by increasing funding for the Department of Education's Math and Science Partnership program to the $150 million appropriated by the House of Representatives.

Sincerely,

Vernon Ehlers
Member of Congress

Rush Holt
Member of Congress

Judy Biggert
Member of Congress


Alert prepared by Emily M. Lehr, AGI Government Affairs Program

Sources: Math/Science Partnership Working Group web site

Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program.

Posted August 20, 2003