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Back to School: How to keep America's Students Competitive


Location: Washington, DC

Back to School: How to keep America's Students Competitive

Roskam Op-Ed

Washington, Aug 29 - As students head back to school we are reminded of the importance of education and its impact on our competitiveness as a nation.

As a parent with children in the public schools, and as a product of the Glen Ellyn public school system myself, I appreciate the investment in education that must be made to enable our young people to pursue greater opportunities in the future. These opportunities not only enrich the lives of students and their families but our nation as a whole. A well-educated and trained American workforce is the most important factor to our competitiveness in the increasingly global economy. An educated workforce assists in retaining and creating industries which lead to the availability of millions of additional high-paying jobs for U.S. working families.

Education is essential in today's knowledge-based economy. Therefore, we must focus our education system to meet our nation's growing demands and improve the opportunities that our children garner once entering the workforce.

Once the envy of the world, parts our education system has been slipping as of late, particularly in math and science related curriculum. U.S. high school students ranked 24th out of 29 industrialized nations on an international math test in 2003. It is incumbent upon the U.S. Congress to work with educators to reform schools and improve our education system, particularly in the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and math.

As such, it is essential our children enter the workforce with the math, science and problem-solving skills needed to succeed. Our knowledge-based economy requires a workforce that can meet the growing demands of business. Without a suitable workforce, businesses will take their industry and capital outside of our country, reducing our competitiveness.

Moving forward, it is essential that the federal government, American business and educators work together to foster an interest in math, science and engineering within America's youth. Encouragement is imperative to guide students in pursuit of education and professional careers in math, science, and engineering.

China and India are producing Ph.D.s in math, science and engineering at a much higher rate than the U.S. In 2004, China graduated more than six times the number of engineers that graduated in the U.S. We must not sit idle as our nation could literally fall behind.

During the first session of the 110th Congress I have been working hard to promote science and technology initiatives aimed at increasing the partnership between business innovation and educational institutions.

Specifically, I supported the 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007 (H.R. 2272) which authorizes $33.6 billion between 2008-2010 for programs to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education and research programs. It also reauthorizes and expands programs at the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Department of Energy. The bill invests in basic research and supports young researchers by expanding early career grant programs.

With nearly 7 billion people in this world, half of whom make less than $2 a day, American manufacturers and workers must compete at a higher level than that of the rest of the world. America must remain in the lead in science, research and innovation in order to retain its competitive status in the ever expanding global economy.

Bipartisan legislation, such as the 21st Century Competitiveness Act of 2007, will help manufacturers, businesses, workers, teachers and students compete on the global stage. We must do all we can to ensure that our children do not become the first generation forced to live at a lower national standard of living.

Rest assured I will be a tireless advocate of smart partnerships between government, the private sector and our education system. These collaborations are a fiscally and systematically wise answer to ensure there is a well-education U.S. workforce able to compete in today's global economy and facilitate tomorrow's needs.

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