Johnson City, Tenn.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today during the keynote address at the Johnson City Economic Summit that education and workforce development are key to America’s economic security.
“Last year, America produced about 25 percent of the world’s wealth with just 5 percent of the world’s population,” Alexander said. “Education and workforce development are two of our biggest tools to help keep a high standard of living and prevent jobs from going overseas. But we need to make sure we are encouraging programs in math and science education so that we can keep our brainpower advantage and remain competitive with countries like China and India. The America COMPETES Act is a great start, but we need to make sure we are funding these programs every year.”
The America COMPETES Act, bipartisan legislation backed by Alexander, seeks to preserve America’s brainpower advantage in order to keep good jobs here instead of moving overseas by putting research programs at the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on a path to double their budgets during the next decade.
Alexander led Republican efforts on the bipartisan legislation for more than two years prior to its being signed into law last August, serving as both the Republican manager of Senate floor debate on the America COMPETES Act and the lead Senate Republican during final negotiations with the House of Representatives. The legislation was signed into law in August 2007.
Alexander noted that the America COMPETES act will help support programs like the collaboration between East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education collaboration and Eastman Chemical Co. to provide innovative summer training for area math teachers. The ETSU/Eastman summer academy offers professional development to over 50 teachers from across the state, followed by extensive development and training activities for the participants throughout the academic year.
"Eastman is investing more than $1 million at ETSU over the next five to seven years, which will provide each teacher with a $600 stipend, $700 in school math supplies, and $1,000 in college tuition fees – a total commitment of $2,300 per teacher. This is exactly the type of programs we need, and is an example of what the America COMPETES Act supports to help Tennessee keep our competitive edge," Alexander said.
Alexander also noted that Workforce Investment Act needs to be improved in order to “provide Tennesseans with the training they need to stay active in the workforce with improved skills for today’s jobs.”
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) provides job training to unemployed and underemployed individuals through a system of One-Stop Centers, including the Northeast Tennessee Career Center in Johnson City. Alexander supported a bipartisan bill to reauthorize and strengthen WIA which cleared the Senate in 2005 but was never acted on by the House of Representatives. Alexander is a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) and said he expected WIA to be one of the committee’s top priorities in 2009.