AMERICA COMPETES ACT -- (Senate - April 23, 2007)
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, I rise today in strong support of a bill that addresses many of the challenges facing Georgia and our Nation during this time of increasing global competitiveness. I am a cosponsor of the America COMPETES Act because it will ensure that the United States will be able to sustain a vigorous economy, an unrivaled national defense, a first-rate health care and education system, a healthy environment, and a hopeful and prosperous future for generations to come.
Although the United States has the strongest scientific and technological enterprise in the world, we are now experiencing the slow but steady effects of globalization. These effects, led most notably by modern advances in communications, have made the world a smaller place and have dramatically increased worldwide competition.
The leadership in science and technology that the United States has enjoyed since World War II is being seriously threatened by the burgeoning and thriving economies and workforces in countries such as China and India. I believe in order to keep our competitive edge and to maintain our dominance in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, it is imperative we make a long-term investment in our future scientists, professors, and engineers. We can do so by improving science and mathematics education, and by providing schools, universities, and research centers throughout the country with necessary funding.
Recently, Microsoft Corporation founder Bill Gates testified before Congress, and he said:
The U.S. cannot maintain its economic leadership unless our workforce consists of people who have the knowledge and skills needed to drive innovation.
Mr. President, that is a very accurate statement, and that is why we need to pass this bill. With the funding and programs provided for in this bill, it will be easier to educate and grow an innovative workforce that is highly skilled and highly trained. The America COMPETES Act recognizes that better educated students make a smarter, more efficient workforce. And that is an important investment for this Nation.
As an example of what funding for science and mathematics education can do, let me tell you about a program that is doing great things in my home State of Georgia. The Georgia Academy of Mathematics, Engineering, and Science, or GAMES, was established at Middle Georgia College in Cochran, GA, during the fall of 1997. GAMES is a residential, joint enrollment program for top-performing high school juniors and seniors. The program allows students to obtain high school and college credits simultaneously while enrolled in full-time college courses. Most students in the GAMES program major in mathematics, science, or engineering.
The GAMES program enrollment continues to grow each year and has earned the reputation of an academic alternative for gifted students all across Georgia. Over the 10 years this program has been in existence, students who have been accepted into GAMES have averaged a 3.85 GPA and an SAT score of 1246. After completing the GAMES program, 48 percent of the students enrolled in the program have transferred to the Georgia Institute of Technology. The GAMES program allows these students to earn a firm foundation in science, technology, and physics before entering Georgia Tech.
Many GAMES graduates are pursuing and/or have received their Ph.D. in mathematics, science, or engineering. I commend Dr. Richard Federinko, president of Middle Georgia College, and the entire faculty and staff for their hard work in making the GAMES program a major success.
GAMES is just one program in one State, and we need more like it throughout the country. This legislation will open the door and perhaps expand these types of programs into other States and allow more bright young people to enter the fields of science, math, and technology.
My fellow colleagues, time is of the essence. We can no longer afford to be complacent and just assume the United States will continue to be the world's leading innovator. Without action, our grandchildren face the genuine possibility of living in an America that is not the preeminent leader in scientific and technological advancements. I urge each of you to join me in support of this critical piece of legislation.
I want to particularly commend my long-time dear friend, Senator Lamar Alexander from Tennessee, for playing a leading roll in the drafting of this legislation and for working so hard to make sure the policy in this legislation is the right kind of policy to promote science, math, and technology in our schools, not just from the eighth grade forward, from the ninth grade forward, but from kindergarten forward.
I say to Senator Alexander, I know he has been ably assisted by Senator Bingaman, as well as others, in a bipartisan way to make sure America's educational system continues to be the preeminent system in the world and that we give these bright minds the opportunity to develop, and that we make sure--from the standpoint of developing engineers in the future, from the standpoint of developing medical researchers in the future, from the standpoint of developing doctors and other types of engineers in that field--we continue to lead the world not just in the production of individuals from a numbers standpoint but in the production of quality individuals to develop technology, to develop our research capability, as well as to make sure from a professional standpoint we have the engineers and the physicians who will continue to lead the world.
With that, Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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Mr. CHAMBLISS. Mr. President, if the Senator will yield for a question through the Chair.
Mr. ALEXANDER. Certainly.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. I simply say the Senator is exactly correct; 47 percent of our students do go on to Georgia Tech. I wish we could get more of them at the University of Georgia where they happened to let me go, but at Georgia Tech we are doing a terrific job of taking these bright young minds that are being developed, as we said earlier, not just at the eighth and ninth grade level, but thanks to you and the leadership of folks like you, at a much earlier age. Our GAMES program, incidentally, was put into effect and implemented by our former colleague Senator Zell Miller, when he was the Governor of our State, and somebody whom I know you worked very closely with over the years. It is a great concept. It is forward thinking, as this legislation is very forward thinking from the standpoint of making sure that these great minds are developed at a very early age.
Again, I thank the Senator from Tennessee for his great work on this and I commend this legislation to all of our colleagues.