Rep. Rush Holt: Math And Science Education A National Security And Economic Priority

May 9, 2003

Washington, DC – Rep. Rush Holt delivered the keynote address today at the release of the Committee for Economic Development (CED)’s new report, Learning for the Future: Changing the Culture of Math and Science Education to Ensure a Competitive Workforce, on the importance of increasing student demand for advanced math and science education. Holt, a physicist, a member of the Education and Workforce Committee, as well as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, called math and science education “a national security priority.” CED is a national blue ribbon, business-led research organization.

“The business leaders at CED understand first hand how deteriorating math and science education and steep decreases in qualified science and math professionals can not only hurt business. It can undermine our nation’s long-term economic performance, security, and global position,” said Rep. Rush Holt, keynote. “I applaud CED for its sensible and timely report.”

In Learning for the Future: Changing the Culture of Math and Science Education to Ensure a Competitive Workforce, CED proposes a strategic plan for improving math and science education in U.S. schools with the goal of creating a larger American workforce of creative scientists and engineers. Learning for the Future summarizes statistics showing the steady decline in math and science skills the longer students stay in U.S. schools. One result of this decline is that less than 1% of all bachelor’s degrees from American colleges in 2000 were in math.

“CED is an organization that takes the long view of economic problems facing our nation,” said Charles E.M. Kolb, President of CED. “If we don’t increase the pool of U.S. educated scientists and technical workers by improving our math and science education, we run the risk of crippling our economy in the very near future. The need to reinvigorate technical education has never been more pressing. CED’s proposals are inclusive and, I believe, are a solid plan that will improve math and science education across all grade levels, economic, racial, and ethnic groups”

The Learning for the Future report notes, “The issue is not solely one of producing the next generation of Nobel Prize winners. The increasing complexity of civil discourse in the 21st century – issues from cloning to homeland security – requires that all citizens attain scientific proficiency.” The report specifically urges action in three areas that will increase student “demand” for and achievement in mathematics and science:

Increasing student interest in math and science to sustain the pipelinefocuses on ways to change the way students view math and science disciplines. CED calls on the business community to collaborate with school districts to develop enhancements to the district-adopted math and science curricula that integrate the state-of-the-art applications of mathematical and scientific principles into the classroom setting and provide an insight into the work scientists and engineers perform every day.

Demonstrating the wonder of discovery while helping students to master rigorous content offers programs to help teachers reinforce student interest and success in math and science. CED calls for reform in teacher preparation, opportunities for teachers to work with those in the technical work force, and significant improvements in the quality of professional development. Businesses should partner with local school districts to provide scientists and engineers as resources for schools.

Acknowledging the professionalism of teachers considers the “supply side” problems facing the teacher labor market. CED recommends that teacher salary scales be viewed as a capital investment similar to other capital improvements. The report also urges reforms in teacher certification, licensing, and pension incentives.

Rep. Holt continues to take measures in Congress to improve math and science education. For example, he was able to ensure that a Math and Science Partnership program was included in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. It will help link school districts with university science, math, and engineering departments together to provide high quality, sustained professional development activities for K-12 math and science teachers. Holt recently circulated a letter from 40 members of Congress requesting $200 million for this program next year.

“The president often says a good education is not about money. He’s right that money alone won’t solve the problem. However, not providing funds to implement the programs of No Child Left Behind clearly won’t work either,” said Holt.

Holt expressed disappointment with the funding levels for No Child in the FY 2004 Bush budget. For example, the President froze the Teacher Quality initiative at $2.85 billion for the second year in a row. Taking into account inflation and growing school enrollments, this budget freeze is actually a cut that over the last two years has denied over 35,000 teachers high quality professional development or prevented school districts from hiring over 3,600 teachers to reduce class size.

“The Administration can do better,” said Holt. “In fact, federal resources are even more important right now as many states find themselves having to cut education spending due to a weak national economy and its constricting effect on state budgets.”

Learning for the Future:Changing the Culture of Math and Science Education to Ensure a Competitive Workforce is available on CED’s website,