Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Garrett vs. Education & Economic Competitiveness

Update: Garrett did utter a peep, he actually gave a speech citing cost as the reason he voted against it. It starts here. They didn't print it until this morning.

In a whopping combined vote total of 786-44, the House passed two appropriations bills yesterday to strengthen our nation's economic future by providing funding for science and education. Representative Scott Garrett voted against both measures, without a peep uttered on the House floor to explain his objections on our District's behalf.

The first vote was on HR 362 (passed 389-22), which authorized scholarships in science and mathematics. The bill also approved grants for the purchase of equipment and partnership between high schools and colleges to ensure college freshman interested in the sciences are up to par with the demands of college level research.

The second vote was on HR 363 (passed 397-20), which authorized grants for scientists and engineers in the early part of their career, doing either graduate study or working at non-profit research labs. This is crucial for providing the kind of skilled workforce our corporations seek.

Now, as early as 2005 the catchphrase "engineer shortage" was being shown to be a misnomer, however what needs to be addressed is a shortage of engineers with the skill sets employers need. As technology takes development into warp speed, employers are having a tougher time finding engineers and research scientists that meet their needs. That's where the bill's listed above are crucial for the future economic competitiveness of our nation.

Here's part of the conclusion from a Duke University study on Engineers and outsourcing released earlier this month in Issues in Science and Technology:
Improving education is critical. As we have seen from the success of skilled immigrants, more education in math and science leads to greater innovation and economic growth. There is little doubt that there are problems with K-12 education and that U.S. schools do not teach children enough math and science. However, the degradation in math and science education happened over a generation. Even if the nation did everything that is needed, it will probably take 10 to 15 years before major benefits become apparent. Given the pace at which globalization is happening, by that time the United States would have lost its global competitive edge. The nation cannot wait for education to set matters right.


A key problem is that the United States lacks enough native students completing master’s and PhD degrees. The nation cannot continue to depend on India and China to supply such graduates. As their economies improve, it will be increasingly lucrative for students to return home. Perhaps the United States needs to learn from India and China, which offer deep subsidies for their master’s and PhD programs. It is not clear whether such higher education is cost-justified for U.S. students. Given the exorbitant fees they must pay to complete a master’s and the long period it takes to complete a PhD, the economics may not always make sense.
There were other suggestions, however these two findings are directly addressed by the legislation Garrett just voted against. Without a floor speech to figure it out, one can only guess why Garrett was with 5% of the House in opposing strengthening America's competitiveness. I guess those of us in the Fifth just have to be happy the other 95% of the House have an interest in moving America forward.

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