A U.S. House of Representatives bill to boost funding for science and math education and increase skilled worker visas failed to pass this week; Idaho’s two congressmen were split in their votes. HB 5325, the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, failed on a vote of 261-148; a two-thirds majority was needed to pass, meaning the bill needed 273 votes of those cast for passage. 1st District Rep. Walt Minnick voted for the bill, while 2nd District Rep. Mike Simpson voted against it.
The America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act was passed in 2007, and will expire on Sept. 30. The original bill was meant to promote research and development, improve science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in all levels of public schools, and build the nation’s skilled workforce by increasing work visas. It also created 40 new government programs and carried a price tag of $33.6 billion. Critics say the reauthorization act’s $48 billion price tag is too much at a time when the federal budget deficit is approximately $1.5 trillion. It contains $1.3 billion for six new government programs (over and above the 40 programs created by the 2007 bill), and funnels money away from the National Science Foundation to unions, critics say.
The reauthorization bill was originally numbered HB 5116, but in the deliberations process, 52 amendments were added, including one by Minnick. That amendment required “… the President’s Advisory Panel on STEM to provide advice to federal agencies on how their STEM technical training and education programs can be better aligned with the workforce needs of states and regions.”
IdahoReporter.com has contacted both Simpson and Minnick’s offices for comment, but had not received them at the time this article was published.
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