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AGI Fiscal Year 2006 Testimony to Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee

Written Testimony Submitted by
Linda Rowan, Director of Government Affairs
American Geological Institute
to the United States Senate
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
April 1, 2005

To the Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for this opportunity to provide the American Geological Institute's perspective on fiscal year (FY) 2006 appropriations for the Department of Education's Mathematics and Science Partnership program.

In 1999, the Third International Math and Science Study found that the longer U.S. students are in school, the farther they fall behind in math and science proficiency in international comparisons. That prompted President Bush to propose the National Math and Science Partnership (MSP) program as part of No Child Left Behind. The goal of the partnership program is to strengthen K-12 science and math education by promoting a vision of education as a continuum that begins with the youngest learners and progresses through adulthood with teacher training. Among its activities, the program supports partnerships that unite K-12 schools, institutions of higher education and private industry.

Congress took the president's suggestion and authorized an MSP program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and another partnership program at the Department of Education in 2002. These two acts of Congress were meant to fund two different types of partnerships to achieve the overall goal of highly qualified math and science teachers ensuring that all students have the basic knowledge to compete in the ever changing and competitive job market. The funds allocated for the NSF's MSPs go to the highest quality proposals chosen through a competitive peer-reviewed grant program. The program focuses on modeling, testing and identification of effective math-science activities. The funds allocated for the Department of Education MSPs go directly to the states as formula grants, providing funds to all states to replicate and then implement the best of the NSF partnerships throughout the country. Once states receive the money, they make competitive grants to local partnerships.

At a hearing in October 2003, the House Science Committee found that these new partnership programs are "on the right track toward improving math and science education." Testifying before the committee, M. Susana Navarro, executive director of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence MSP, said: "What the MSP now provides is an opportunity to bring together partners across the community, K-16, toward the shared development and implementation of high quality math and science content and instructional practices aimed at improving student achievement among all students."

Just three months after that hearing, President Bush released his budget proposal for fiscal year 2005 (FY05), which phased out the NSF partnership programs and shifted the funding to the MSP companion program at the Department of Education. However, the $120 million increase requested for 2005 was not slated to fund additional MSPs on the local level; instead it would have financed a new program focused on accelerating the math education of secondary-school students, especially those who are at risk of dropping out of school because they lack basic skills in math.

The Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education did not go along entirely with the President's plan last year. The MSPs would have received $200 million, 4.5 percent less than the President requested but $51 million or 34 percent more than FY04 funding in the Senate version of the bill. The report stated, "These funds will be used to improve the performance of students in the areas of math and science by bringing math and science teachers in elementary and secondary schools together with scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to increase the teachers' subject-matter knowledge and improve their teaching skills."

We applauded the Subcommittee because it did not choose to fund math over science and, ultimately, Congress did not chose to fund math over science. In last year's omnibus bill, the Math and Science Partnership budget increased 16 percent over FY04 levels to $179 million and none of those funds were set-aside for one subject.

This year, the President has proposed something similar. The FY06 budget proposal increases the MSPs to $269 million, an increase of $90.4 million, or 51 percent, over the FY05 level. Although a large increase has been proposed, the President's plan restricts $120 million for the Secondary Education Mathematics Initiative, a competitive grant program to be administered by the Department of Education. This creates a net decrease in funding available to the states in FY06 compared to the FY05 allocations.

The $120 million in funds for Secondary Education Mathematics Initiative is part of the overall High School Initiative, which will expand the application of No Child Left Behind principles to improve high school education and raise achievement, particularly the achievement of students most at risk of failure. This new initiative combines a number of categorical programs in order to give states and districts more flexibility and contains stronger accountability mechanisms.

AGI believes the two MSPs are the most effective approach to rapidly improving the abilities of all students to enhance their future prospects regardless of their ultimate career goals. The two programs, designed and authorized by Congress, are complementary. AGI supports funding at NSF for competitive grants for teaching tools and teacher training and funding at the Department of Education for formula grants for implementation of these tools in K-12 education. The peer-review process in the NSF program should be safeguarded as should the formula grants for all states as administered by the Department of Education. Moreover, the program within the Department of Education should not suffer a net reduction in funding in order to support a new initiative for mathematics. These funds should serve the Math and Science Partnership with no earmarks or set-asides.

Thank you for the opportunity to present this testimony to the Subcommittee. If you would like any additional information, please contact me at 703-379-2480, ext. 228 voice, 703-379-7563 fax, rowan@agiweb.org, or 4220 King Street, Alexandria VA 22302-1502.

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

Posted: May 12, 2005

 


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