Techniques Magazine Techniques January 2011 : Page 12

CA p I t OL VIEW America COMPETES Act: STEM Investment for U.S. Competitiveness By Stephen DeWitt IN 2005, tHE NAtIONAL ACADEMIES RELEASED “RISING ABOVE tHE GAtHERING StORM: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future.” The report highlights the United States’ scientific and technical innovations as a reason for economic success and warns that other nations are surpassing us due to globaliza-tion and competition. A set of recommen-dations on how to improve the situation includes key messages about the need to focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) research and education. The U.S. government heeded the warnings of the report, and in 2007, President Bush called for, and Congress approved, the “America Creating Op-portunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science Act (America COMPETES Act, P.L.110-69). The law has invested heavily in science and technology research and STEM education over the past three years. Although America COMPETES does not mention career and technical education (CTE) specifically, there are implications for our field. For instance, several of the programs authorized in the law include a focus on “hands-on” learn-ing; there are manufacturing initiatives included in the bill; and generally, the law’s STEM research and education focus overlaps with the purpose of many CTE courses—building a qualified workforce for the future. The law is focused on many of the same issues that CTE is concerned with. As referenced by the House Com-mittee on Science and Technology, “The (law) follows through on a commitment to ensure U.S. students, teachers, businesses and workers are prepared to continue leading the world in innovation, research and technology—well into the future.” “REGARDLESS OF WHEN A NEW AMERICA COMPETES ACT IS APPROVED, ‘RISING AbOVE THE GATHERING STORM’ MAKES A SOuND CASE THAT STEM EDuCATION MuST REMAIN A PRIORITy.” In September 2010, the National Acad-emies released a follow-up report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5.” The new report is not very heartening. It says that the outlook for the United States has worsened since the 2005 report was writ-ten, despite some good actions such as ap-proval of the first America COMPETES Act. The new report was released at an opportune time as the 111th Congress grappled with how and whether to reau-thorize the America COMPETES Act. As I write this column, the outcome has yet to be determined. Both the House and Senate introduced new versions of the AMERICA Competes Act in the 111th Congress; Democrat leaders in the House brought a bill, H.R.5116, to the floor three times before it could be passed in May of 2010. Ultimately, the House legis-lation was pushed through by Democrats against the wishes of Republicans who believed the cost of the bill was too high. Senate passage of its version of the bill, S.3605, was still pending as of October. The bill approved by the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee included amendments that reduced the size of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and National Science Foundation programs by 10 percent. The November mid-term elections slowed down the process of reauthorization, and the economic situation and Congressional concern about the federal deficit—espe -cially among Republican policymakers— escalated the political debate. Regardless of when a new America COMPETES Act is approved, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” makes a sound case that STEM education must remain a priority. Also, policymakers need to understand the important role that CTE provides related to STEM education. I encourage you to use ACTE’s Issue Brief, “CTE’s Role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math,” and our other Issue Briefs and papers, as you advocate for STEM and inclusion of CTE issues in the debate about how to keep our nation educationally and economically competitive. Stephen DeWitt is senior director of public policy at ACTE. He can be contacted at 703-683-9311, or at sdewitt@acteonline.org. You can read more about ACTE’s policy activities and the latest happenings in Washington, D.C., on ACTE’s CTE Policy Watch blog. Check it out today at www. acteonline.org/ctepolicywatchblog.aspx . 12 Techniques JANUAR Y 2011 www.acteonline.org

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