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Lawmakers Vote to Boost STEM Education in Immigration Bill

Good news for STEM fans: There's even more federal resources for science, mathematics, engineering and technology in the big, comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill making its way through the U.S. Senate.

The Senate Judiciary committee, which is holding a markup of the bill today, voted unanimously to take money collected on fees for labor certifications under the bill and direct the money towards STEM education at the U.S. Department of Education.

That could mean an additional $100 million annually for STEM education. And those resources would come on top of the roughly $100 million to $150 million in extra funding for STEM education at the National Sciences Foundation, which was already included in the bill, according to James Brown, the executive director of the STEM Education Coalition, which backs the bill. Way more on that here.

The amendment, which had bipartisan backing from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, as well as two Democrats: Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota would create a new STEM Education and Training Account at the Department of Education. Here's how the funds would be used:

•Seventy percent of the funds would go to help states boost STEM standards, recruit educators, bolster college completion, and revamp community college and worker training programs. The fund would be administered by governors and state education chiefs.

•Another 20 percent of the funds would go to boost STEM at minority-serving institutions of higher education, and 5 percent would go to the Department of Labor for STEM-related job training programs. Another 3 percent would help support new "American Dream Accounts" to help low-income students that want to study STEM. (Thanks to Brown and the STEM Coalition for the excellent summary.)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is slated to introduce an amendment later this week, however, that would replace the STEM education for NSF with a fund more targeted to the educational needs of Latinos. That provision does not have the backing of the Hispanic Education Coalition, an umbrella group of more than 20 organizations that works to boost educational outcomes for Latinos. The coalition wrote in a letter sent yesterday to Judiciary Committee members that,
"Education block grants have historically not reached and sufficiently addressed the needs of Latino students, migrant students, immigrant students, and English language learners." The panel is slated to vote on the Cruz amendment as early as today.

This isn't the only interesting amendment still under consideration. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., wants to see the bill include a path to citizenship for "little DREAMers" (undocumented children who aren't yet old enough to attain a high school diploma.) The provision has the backing of the Hispanic Education Coalition, which said in the letter that "these little DREAMers were brought to this country at a very young age." Much more about the amendment from my colleague, Lesli Maxwell, of Learning the Language fame.

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