President Signs America COMPETES Act to Bolster Math & Science Education (Rep. Bart Gordon)

Today, the President signed into law legislation I authored to improve math and science education and foster energy research to help secure U.S. competitiveness.  As far as I'm concerned, this is among the most important legislation he will sign this Congress.

Why?  Because the bill, know as the America COMPETES Act, is designed to ensure that U.S. students, teachers, businesses and workers are prepared to continue leading the world in innovation, research and technology.

This will help us keep American jobs on our shores by making sure we have the most skilled workforce in the world.  Other countries will always have lower wages, so in an effort to remain competitive our workforce must have the technical skills to make it advantageous for companies to keep their businesses here in the U.S. instead of moving overseas.  We start by making sure our children are receiving the best math and science preparation in grades K-12.

This bill is based on recommendations from the National Academies' 2005 report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."  The report was produced at the request of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including myself and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

The report concluded the United States could stand to lose its competitive edge without immediate action.  Specifically, the report found that in 1999, 68 percent of U.S. 8th grade students received math instruction from a teacher who lacked a degree or certification in the field.  In 2000, 93 percent of students in grades 5-9 received physical science instruction form teachers without a certification in the subject matter.

Many of our teachers are put in a difficult position of filling a school's need for a teacher in a particular subject area, but they may not have extensive knowledge of the content.  Our efforts today will help them gain the content knowledge and skills they need to teach our students.

The bill will help to prepare thousands of new teachers by offering scholarships to students who major in math, science or engineering and commit to become teachers upon graduation.  The bill will also provide current teachers with content and teaching skills through summer training institutes.

The bill also takes steps to help reducing the nation's dependence on foreign sources of energy by establishing an Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Department of Energy to focus on high-risk, high-reward energy research to produce new energy technologies.

H.R. 2272 is supported by a wide variety of groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and the National Education Association.  This is an example of how the process should work.  A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers requested the report from the National Academies, and we have acted on those recommendations to produce good legislation.

I am proud that today the President has also shown his support by signing this bill. It's the right thing to do for our future and especially, our children's future.

For more information on the bill, please visit the House Committee on Science and Technology's website.