An amendment offered to the budget resolution by U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) that restores funding for basic scientific research, as well as math and science education, at facilities such as the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was expected to pass the Senate late Wednesday.
“We talk a lot about pro-growth policies,” Alexander said on the Senate floor. “As governor of Tennessee, I learned that low taxes and balanced budgets are not the only important part. Better schools, colleges and universities mean better jobs.”
A “brainpower advantage” is the reason for America’s disproportionate productivity, Alexander added, “but the rest of the world has figured that out as well. Investing in our next generation of talent is the real way to keep our jobs from going to China and India and other countries in the world.”
Alexander contrasted the $1 billion in funding the amendment seeks with recent federal spending, including $237 billion servicing the national debt, $378 billion on Medicare, $545 billion on social security and $70 billion on hurricanes. “These are all important priorities,” he said. “But we won’t have enough money to pay those bills unless we also invest some of our budget in keeping our competitive edge in science and technology.”
The amendment restores $400 million for the National Science Foundation and $600 million for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, as requested by the President’s budget. It also makes room in the budget resolution for provisions of the America COMPETES Act, which was introduced earlier this month by both Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the product of years of work and strong bipartisan support.
In Tennessee, the COMPETES Act would provide for:
· Scholarships for 400 Future Tennessee Math & Science Teachers:
Each year, up to 400 bright Tennesseans could receive four-year scholarships, each worth up to $10,000 per year, to earn a bachelor’s degree in science, technology, engineering or math, while concurrently earning teacher certification. The new teachers would be expected to teach in poorer schools for at least the first few years after graduation.
· Summer Academies for Tennessee Math & Science Teachers:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and universities across the state would host one-week to two-week summer academies for hundreds of Tennessee math and science teachers.
· AP Training for 400 Tennessee Math & Science Teachers:
The bill would provide training and support for up to 400 Tennessee teachers in high-need schools to teach Advanced Placement (AP) classes or pre-AP classes.
· Support for a Proposed Math & Science Specialty High School:
The state of Tennessee would be eligible to partner with ORNL for financial and expert assistance in teaching at a new residential high school specializing in math and science that students from across the state would be eligible to attend.
· High-Tech Internships for Tennessee Middle and High School Students:
The bill would provide unique internship and program opportunities for dozens of Tennessee middle and high school students at ORNL, the UT Health Science Center in Memphis, and other technology and scientific research facilities across the state.
· Growing Tennessee-based Research to Produce New High-Tech Jobs:
The bill would increase research and development spending by about 10 percent per year for four years at several federal agencies, thereby creating hundreds of new research jobs at Tennessee research institutions like the ORNL, UT and Vanderbilt. This investment could generate dozens of new high-tech companies in Tennessee over the course of the next decade.