Kansas University and U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts are working to improve science education from two different angles.
KU's School of Education is preparing a new home in Joseph R. Pearson Hall as a high-tech training ground for science and math teachers.
"The push nowadays is to get future teachers to learn this (Internet and computer) technology," said Frank Carey, director of technology for the School of Education. "If these new teachers bring the technology in, if they create a demand for it, the school districts will bring it in. If there is an inertia among the teachers who are intent on retirement, then it won't happen."
Roberts, R-Kan., is backing legislation that dovetails with KU's goals to provide training and financial incentives for science teachers here and nationwide.
His proposals would, among other things:
Create a "master teachers" program to mentor and train science teachers in kindergarten through eighth grade. The National Science Education Act, also would bring scientists and educators together to look at curricula in U.S. schools.
Establish summer institutes for science and math teachers.
Provide tax credits to beginning science and math teachers for paying off student loans. The incentive would allow for 10 percent of a teacher's total college tuition, up to $1,000 per year for 10 years, for science, math, engineering and technology teachers in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The key House sponsor of the legislation, Michigan GOP Rep. Vernon Ehlers, is also a research physicist.
Among the features of Pearson Hall, to which the education school will move in August, are fully wired chemistry, science, and math classrooms.
"Student teachers will be taught how to teach in a true scientific setting," Carey said.
Looking over blueprints, Carey traces paths of "miles and miles" of wire to connect offices, classrooms, labs and the 100-seat auditorium. Every seat will have an Internet connection, he said.
"We want to explain to our students how to use the technology and how to exploit it in their future classrooms," Carey said.
Roberts said a work force skilled in science and math means higher-paying jobs for Kansans.
High-tech jobs in the state grew 53 percent throughout seven years, Roberts said, a rate higher even than California, home to Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Apple Computer, and other Silicon Valley companies.
Roberts said it is important to keep the best young researchers from leaving the state.
"We are losing bright, young research faculty at an alarming rate," Roberts said. "We are not competitive in attracting new faculty."
Citing a KU study, the senator said faculty pay lags far behind that offered at similar institutions.
Another bill sponsored by Roberts and Sen. Bob Kerrey, D-Neb., allows $20 million more for the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation, which administers scholarships for math and science study.
The new funds would boost the program's endowment from $61 million to $81 million, earmarking the new money to scholarships for technology and information security studies.