Knoxville News Sentinel - Richard Powelson
WASHINGTON - A new Senate bill proposes $9 billion a year or more toward new college scholarships, research and extra teacher training to help graduate more experts and teachers in math, science and engineering.
It also would double tax credits for companies doing research and development in scientific innovation of national interest.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee likely would be among national labs and research universities winning a share of the new funds aimed at becoming more competitive with science and technology programs overseas, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said Wednesday.
Alexander, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., are leaders of the bill filed Wednesday. Nearly 30 senators so far support it.
The extra spending and tax incentives are vital to creating many more good-paying jobs, Alexander said.
"If we only spend money on war, welfare, Social Security, debt, hurricanes, disasters and flu, we're not going to have an economy strong enough to pay the bills for those urgent needs," Alexander said. "So it's a small price for a high standard of living."
Domenici told reporters that he heard President Bush likely will endorse the bill's goals in his nationally televised State of the Union speech Tuesday.
The bill includes the 20 top actions and strategies recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. Their report was requested by Alexander and Bingaman with the endorsement of U.S. Reps. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., and Bart Gordon, D-Tenn., of the House Committee on Science.
Some key impacts possible if the bill is passed, according to Alexander's office:
- About 200 bright Tennessee students per year would be among about 10,000 nationally receiving up to $20,000 in annual scholarships toward bachelor's degrees in science, technology, engineering or math if they agreed to teach in their fields for several years.
- Provide identical scholarships over four years for about 500 high-achieving Tennesseans per year (25,000 students nationally) who earn a bachelor's degree in these fields.
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT likely would be among designated summer academies offering more training to current regional math and science teachers aimed at inspiring more students to focus on those fields.
- Create a new nonprofit to promote more Advanced Placement classes in math and science at high schools with incentives for teachers and students.
- Provide internships and other opportunities for middle and high school students at Oak Ridge National Laboratory or other science research facilities.
- Change the foreign student visa process to encourage promising students in these fields to work in this country after graduation.
Alexander said the problem is urgent.
"China, India and other countries are competing for our good jobs," he said. "The way to keep our good jobs ... is to keep our brainpower advantage in science and technology. Better schools, better universities, more research, more math and science means better jobs."