Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, the latest results of international tests just came in. On the Program for International Student Assessment, PISA, 15-year-olds in the United States rank 25th in math--below average--among their peers in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, nations. Our 15-year-olds rank 17th place--only average--in science. To compete for the jobs of the future, the United States can and must do better.
Today I introduce the Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics, STEM, Teacher Tax Incentive Act of 2011, one small step to help restore our strength in STEM education and our nation's economic competitiveness.
Research has shown that teacher quality is the most important factor affecting student achievement. We need more highly effective teachers to help excite and inspire our students about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This bill will provide a tax credit to encourage those who major in STEM fields to join and stay in the teaching profession. The tax credit can be used to help repay undergraduate tuition, and is 50 percent greater for qualified STEM teachers who teach in high-needs schools.
In Hawaii, I have visited dozens of schools and STEM teachers who are working day in, day out to inspire the next generation of leaders. These teachers engage their students through innovative programs like Waianae High School's Searider Productions and robotics initiatives, where our students compete successfully across our islands, nationally, and internationally.
The Hawaii Department of Education's winning Race-to-the-Top plan outlines efforts to increase students' access to highly qualified teachers in STEM and other hard-to-staff subjects. This bill can help supplement Hawaii DOE's efforts.
For his work on this bill in past congresses, I thank my former colleague Congressman Vern Ehlers, Republican of Michigan. Although he retired from his role as a legislator in December 2010, I look forward to his continued contributions as a nuclear physics professor. Thank you also to the other members of the Congressional STEM Education Caucus for their partnership in this and other initiatives to promote STEM Education.