Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Kaufman Introduces Bill To Coordinate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education

June 8, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a speech today on the Senate floor, Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE) introduced the STEM Education Coordination Act of 2009. As the only serving U.S. Senator to have worked as an engineer, Sen. Kaufman has advocated for a renewed emphasis on science and innovation to meet the increasing challenges of a competitive global economy on numerous occasions. Co-sponsored with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), this legislation seeks to ensure existing STEM education resources are employed efficiently and effectively through greater coordination at the federal level.

Full remarks:

Mr. President, today I am introducing with Senator Brown, the STEM Education Coordination Act of 2009. This bill addresses what we call STEM education--science, technology, engineering, and mathematics--which is critical for our competitiveness in the years and generations to come.

 This bill is nearly identical to the version of H.R. 1709 reported by the House Committees on Science and Technology and on Education and Labor and which may be approved by the House of Representatives as early as today. It is quite a simple proposal. It would require coordination of Federal STEM education activities.

We can all agree that STEM education is crucial to our future. Technological innovation accounts for more than half of the growth of our economy since the Second World War. The discoveries and innovations of our STEM professionals create whole new opportunities, new industries, new companies, new products and services, and new ways of delivering old products and services efficiently. To build a clean energy economy, to stay competitive in a globalizing world, to drive the health and science research that will improve our quality of life, we need more people trained in these skills. All too often, though, we are lagging behind other nations in producing these scientists and engineers.

Our ability to keep our lead in technology, which has defined American economic strength for generations, is deteriorating. The need for more STEM education and also particularly to reach women and underrepresented minorities is well recognized. The Congress has acted in recent years to support legislation such as the America COMPETES Act that broadens our competitiveness efforts beyond simply STEM education.

But there is also a concern that we are not using our current STEM education resources as efficiently and effectively as we could. As noted in the House Science Committee report:

For the most part, agencies have developed their programs independently rather than sharing "best practices" and collaborating across agencies. Each program has also developed its own methods and criteria for evaluation, making a comparison of effectiveness across the programs impossible.

To get the most out of our efforts, this bill would require coordination of Federal STEM education activities. It would direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy to establish a committee under the National Science and Technology Council that is responsible for coordinating Federal science, technology, engineering, and math education programs and activities. These include Federal programs of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of Education, and others. This newly formed committee will have three main responsibilities.

First, the committee will coordinate the Federal STEM education activities and programs.

Second, the committee will develop, implement, and update a 5-year STEM education achievement plan, including objectives and metrics so we can assess how well we are doing.

Third, the committee will maintain an inventory of federally sponsored STEM education programs and activities, including rates of participation by underrepresented minorities.

So that the Congress can make use of this information to advance our STEM education efforts, this bill will require an annual report that includes:

One, a description of STEM education programs and activities; two, the level of funding for the programs and activities for each participating Federal agency; three, a description of the progress made in carrying out the implementation of the plan; and, four, a description of how participating Federal agencies disseminate information about available STEM education resources to States and practitioners.

This coordination is among the ideas suggested by then-Senator Obama in a bill he offered in the 110th Congress, S. 3047.

In sum, this bill will do just what its title suggests: coordinate our STEM educational activities. We not only have a duty to this Nation to make sure Federal dollars are spent as efficiently and effectively as possible, but it is also critical to our economy that we succeed in fostering a workforce that can out-discover, out-think, out-innovate, and out-produce our worldwide competition.

This legislation will help us reach these goals. In a world increasingly dominated by technology, I believe our economy, our environment, and our future depend on improving STEM education.

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