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House Panel Considers America COMPETES Act Renewal

The House Science and Technology Committee today is taking up legislation to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act. The law includes a strong emphasis on improving education in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, though as I noted in a story several months back, many of the education-related provisions have failed to receive funding.

A press release from the science committee notes that the House bill, HR 5116, expands support for STEM education, such as language to coordinate STEM education activities across the federal government (which previously passed the House as HR 1709) and ensuring a vision and strategy for STEM education at the Department of Energy.

In addition, the package contains legislative language introduced by Rep. Harry Mitchell, an Arizona Democrat, to amend the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program to reduce the cost-sharing requirement for colleges and universities so that a more diverse group of institutions can afford to participate in the Noyce program, according to another committee press release.

"If U.S. students are going to remain competitive in a global economy, it is vitally important that we recruit and train qualified and motivated STEM teachers to work in our K-12 schools," said Mr. Mitchell in the press release. "The Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program does exactly that. It is especially crucial to make it easier and less expensive for universities to provide this valuable training during these tough economic times."

Although many of the education provisions in the COMPETES Act have never been funded, the Noyce scholarship program is one of the exceptions, as federal aid has climbed substantially over time, even as it's still well below the level authorized in the law. For fiscal 2010, it received $55 million. In addition, under the federal economic-stimulus law, it got an additional $60 million in one-time aid.

Rep. Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., the chairman of the House science committee, said his goal is to have the full House pass the America COMPETES Act before the Memorial Day recess.

Stay tuned for more details and analysis as this legislation moves forward.

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