ENHANCING SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATHEMATICS ACT OF 2008 -- (Senate - May 22, 2008)
Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, last year, I was proud to cosponsor America COMPETES, legislation which addressed many issues essential to maintaining America's competitive leadership in an increasing competitive and technological global marketplace. I was heartened by the bipartisan support for that effort. Today, I rise to urge my colleagues to join me and my friend from Indiana, Mr. Lugar, in extending that effort, by supporting legislation to enhance education efforts in science, technology, engineering and mathematics--the fields known as STEM.
Strengthening STEM education is important not only to foster the innovation needed to ensure our nation's future prosperity, but also so that every citizen can benefit from our democracy's ever-increasing pace of technological and scientific advance. Federal agencies currently administer more than a hundred different STEM education programs, with over $3,000,000,000 spent annually. Yet there is little coherence among these efforts. There is a clear need for increased coordination of STEM education among states, and between the efforts of federal agencies and of state and local educators.
The intent of our legislation, the Enhancing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Technology Act of 2008, is to bring coherence and coordination to these efforts, for the benefit of students, science, and society. The legislation establishes a STEM Education Committee within the President's Office of Science and Technology Policy to coordinate the initiatives of the many Federal agencies engaged in STEM education, and to avoid unnecessary duplication among these efforts. It consolidates existing STEM education initiatives within the Department of Education under the direction of an Office of STEM Education. It authorizes grant funding for States which choose to work together to develop rigorous common STEM education standards with more meaningful and effective ways of measuring student learning. And it facilitates sharing of information about effective educational practices and innovations so that they become widely available to STEM teachers and educators. Throughout this legislation, there is emphasis on developing strategies to increase the participation of Americans from underrepresented populations in our national science and engineering enterprise, bringing new perspectives for the benefit of all.
All of these efforts together will strengthen our efforts to help students learn, and teachers teach, not just to train the scientists and engineers of the future, but to empower all students to become more fluent in science and technology, and more capable in math.
I am pleased that Mr. Lugar has joined in this effort, as have Mr. Sanders and Mr. Brown. In the House, Mr. Honda has introduced companion legislation, joined by a bipartisan group totaling 40. I urge my colleagues to join us in this effort.