A U.S. House of Representatives committee largely lauded a bill to authorize scholarships and enhance K-12 math and science teacher training during a drafting session Wednesday, making a few modifications and approving the bill for consideration by the full House next month.
H.R. 362, known as the “‘10,000 Teachers, 10 Million Minds’ Science and Math Scholarship Act,” would carry out many of the K-12 science education recommendations incorporated in Rising Above the Gathering Storm, a National Academies report that details the challenges the country faces in maintaining its stature in the sciences.
The legislation amends the National Science Foundation’s Noyce Scholarship program to authorize scholarships of up to $10,000 annually for up to three years for math, science and engineering majors who commit to teaching a certain number of years (up to six, but variable based on the extent of scholarship support). It also provides competitive awards to colleges that work across disciplines to develop courses of instruction through which students can obtain a bachelor’s degree in science, math or engineering and simultaneously gain K-12 teaching certification or licensure; expands professional development opportunities; and amends the NSF STEM Talent Expansion program to create centers for the improvement of undergraduate education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We’re not trying to break new ground here,” said Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), chair of the House Committee on Science and Technology and sponsor of the bill. “We’re just trying to act on what needs to be done.”
Committee members from both sides of the aisle praised the bill Tuesday, and the chair at one point theatrically read from a sheet of paper listing various organizations standing in support -- "nearly every kind of math, science and education group there is." Despite the congenial tone, however, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) used the session as an opportunity to lash out against the practice of paying all teachers equally regardless of what they teach. While indicating that he was likely to support the bill, Representative Rohrabacher noted that “providing scholarships is another way of remuneration,” one necessitated, he argued, by “this nonsensical theory that someone who is teaching sixth grade gymnastics has to make the same as a sixth grade science teacher.”
Legislators, however, didn’t detour too far down that thorny path, and even inserted an amendment into the bill clarifying that one particular section -- which references the establishment of a national panel to identify effective math and science teaching materials -- should not be read as a mandate of K-12 curricula (yet another thorny subject). The most significant amendment approved, however, was one introduced by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) to incorporate the entire text of H.R. 524, a bill to establish a laboratory science pilot program at NSF, in the “10,000 Teachers” act. The “Partnerships for Access to Laboratory Science” program would award grants to partnerships – including those involving colleges – developed to improve laboratory-based education at the high school level.