Menendez-Allen Bill to Improve Science Education For Low-Income & Rural Schools

Menendez-Allen Bill to Improve Science Education For Low-Income & Rural Schools

Bipartisan measure to make partnership grants available to low-income, rural high schools for equipment, training

Washington - In a bipartisan effort to improve the science laboratory experience for students in rural and low-income schools and thereby increase the number of women and minorities interested in studying math, science and engineering in college United States Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and George Allen (R-VA) today introduced legislation that would authorize $50 million for grants to allow the neediest school districts across America to enter partnerships to upgrade their science laboratory equipment, develop new methods of teaching science laboratories, and train high school laboratory teachers. U.S. Rep Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced an identical measure in the House of Representatives.

The Partnership for Access to Laboratory Science Act, or PALS program, would make grants available for Americas neediest school districts to partner with colleges, universities and private sector companies to develop comprehensive plans on how best to improve the teaching of science laboratories.

America can truly be competitive in this global economy, but only by challenging all of our students and inspiring them to pursue a variety of subjects including hard sciences, Menendez said. But we cannot challenge students academically or stimulate their interest if they are using out-of-date or inoperable science equipment in school. It is incumbent upon us to expand the pipeline of women and disadvantaged students who study math, science and engineering. By expanding that pipeline, we not only make those career fields more diverse, but we also help American remain competitive as we move forward into the global economy.

"I want America to be the World Capitol of Innovation", Allen said. "To achieve this goal, America needs many more scientists and engineers because they are the ones who will create, design, and develop the inventions, innovations, and intellectual property of the future. If you look at the number of engineering, science and technology graduates our country, only about 15 percent are women, about 6 percent are African-American, and about 6 percent are Latino. Thats simply not enough!"

The Menendez-Allen measure would authorize $50 million for a matching grant program to be administered by the National Science Foundation. Eligible grantees are partnerships between high-need or rural school districts, a college or university, and the private sector. Prospective grantees must develop a plan that describes how the partnership would be part of a comprehensive program designed to enhance the quality of math, science, engineering, and technology instruction.

"Taught well and with the right facilities and equipment, science can capture imaginations, said Dr. E. Ann Nalley, president of the American Chemical Society. The PALS program will encourage more students especially those from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds to stay in school and pursue careers in the science and technology - the fields that will help keep America competitive in the 21st Century."

"Science is something that has to experienced, not just read about in a textbook, said Dr. Gerald Wheeler, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association. Providing teachers and classrooms with the right resources to teach science effectively is a challenge that will require collaboration between the business, science, and education communities, led by the NSF. This bill does that."

If passed, the bill will allow school districts to use the grants in a variety of ways including: developing a plan for improving laboratory instrumentation and laboratory space; acquiring laboratory equipment and other scientific educational materials; maintaining, renovating, or improving of existing laboratories; and, professional development and training for high school science lab teachers.

Grants may also be used for developing instructional materials that integrate lab and classroom learning; safety training; and designing hands-on laboratory experiments to encourage women, minorities, and the disabled to enter math, science, engineering, and technology fields.

# # #