Ehlers Introduces Three Bills Aimed at Bolstering Science Education

Article excerpt

Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.), vice chairman of the House Science Committee, has introduced a trio of bills aimed at bolstering science education. The bills would establish several new programs de signed to improve science, math, engineering, and technology education in grades K-12; place a renewed emphasis on teacher mentoring and professional development; and create a tax credit for science teachers.

The proposals came just as debate was beginning to escalate on increasing the number of immigration visas granted to foreign high- tech workers. The high-tech industry has argued that an increase is necessary to overcome a severe shortage of U.S. workers. Ehlers argues that although a short-term increase in foreign workers may be necessary, the best long-term solution is to improve education in the sciences, thus better preparing students for careers in technical fields. Ehlers believes that in 15 years "it will be impossible to get meaningful employment" without some understanding of science and technology. Already, he says, industry spends more money retraining high school graduates than the federal government spends on education.

The centerpiece of the three bills is the National Science Education Act (H.R. 4271), which would establish several National Science Foundation (NSF) programs. The most important would be a "master teacher" program that would give grants to elementary and middle schools to hire educators who would have the specific responsibility of mentoring young teachers and providing laboratory support. The program's goals are to help schools retain young teachers and encourage better use of hands-on educational materials. H.R. 4271 would also set up programs to train teachers in the use of technology in the classroom, award scholarships to teachers who pursue scientific research, establish a National Academy of Sciences study on the use of technology in the classroom, and create a working group to identify and publicize strong curricula nationwide.

The second bill (H.R. 4272) addresses programs in the Department of Education. It would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to place new emphasis on mentoring of young teachers, authorize peer-reviewed professional development institutes, and establish after-school science programs. …