Posted on August 3, 2007
“This is a victory for returning to a bipartisan spirit in the U.S. Congress,” Alexander said, noting the overwhelming bipartisan votes in support of the America COMPETES Act in both chambers of Congress. “The next generation of Americans will benefit from the new technologies that will come from the scientific research and math and science education in which this bill invests. No other legislation we will pass during this two-year session of Congress will do more to keep our brainpower advantage so we grow new American jobs here instead of shipping them overseas.” The three-year, $43 billion initiative sets government funding for basic scientific research on a path to double over seven years and creates thousands of new opportunities for math and science students, teachers and researchers. In Tennessee, the America COMPETES Act – which is the result of two years of bipartisan congressional work in response to recommendations found in the National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report – would provide: *Scholarships for hundreds of future math and science teachers *Summer academies for teachers and students at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and universities, such as UT, Vanderbilt, and MTSU *Support for the state's proposed residential high school in math and science *A 10 percent per year increase in funding for research and development in science and technology at universities and laboratories. The bill passed the House by a vote of 367 to 57 and the Senate unanimously. It will now go to the President for his signature. Alexander served as the Republican manager of the bill during debate on the Senate floor, and was also the lead Senate Republican negotiator during meetings to resolve differences between the House- and Senate –passed versions of the bill. He sits on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is a former U.S. Secretary of Education. A summary of how the bill would benefit Tennessee is below. The America COMPETES Act What it means for Tennessee: o Scholarships for Hundreds of Future Tennessee Math & Science Teachers: Each year, hundreds of 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 high-need schools for at least the first few years after graduation. o Summer Academies for Tennessee Math & Science Teachers: Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and universities across the state could host one-week to two-week summer academies for hundreds of Tennessee math and science teachers. o AP Training for Hundreds of Tennessee Math & Science Teachers: The bill would provide training and support for hundreds Tennessee teachers in high-need schools to teach Advanced Placement (AP) classes or pre-AP classes. o 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 – as has been proposed by Governor Bredesen. o High-Tech Internships for Tennessee Middle and High School Students: The bill would provide unique internship and program opportunities at ORNL for dozens of middle and high school students from across Tennessee. o 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 three years at several federal agencies, thereby creating hundreds of new research jobs at Tennessee research institutions like ORNL, UT and Vanderbilt. This investment could generate dozens of new high-tech companies in Tennessee over the course of the next decade. o Innovative Science Programs at Tennessee Universities: The bill would provide grants to universities like Middle Tennessee State University that offer cutting-edge Professional Science Masters degree programs to prepare students with a scientific background for careers in a variety of private and public industries.