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Celebrating America's Competitive Edge
Guest Perspective: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) - Education, Research, Innovation Key to our Future
In Texas, we know the value of investment in university research. Investment in research at the University of Texas at Austin brings in $1.4 billion in Texas business activity per year and creates more than 20,000 new jobs throughout the state. Knowledge gained by cutting edge research is passed on to students, creating a new generation of scholars, engineers, scientists and business professionals.
This year, Congress has taken measures to prevent a deep recession – including an economic stimulus package and a major housing reform plan – but it must also work to strengthen the foundations of America’s prosperity: science and technology. These are the areas of expertise that spur creativity and new technologies, which are essential for economic growth. In fact, as much as 85 percent of the measured growth in per capita income is due to technological advancement.
In 2007, we passed the America Competes Act, landmark legislation that addresses several important goals. First, it expands research by doubling funding levels for the National Science Foundation from $5.6 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 to $11.2 billion in FY 2011. It also boosts funding levels for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science from $3.6 billion in FY 2007 to over $5.2 billion in FY 2011.
Second, the America Competes Act bolsters education by strengthening the skills of teachers in STEM. It funds the Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow, a project in which colleges and universities encourage undergraduate students to earn degrees in their STEM fields of study with teacher certification obtained through required electives. In addition, the bill increases the number of Advanced Placement (A.P.) courses in underprivileged schools and trains more teachers to teach A.P. math, science, and foreign language courses.
Congress can take proactive measures to build on the America Competes Act. One of the best ways to recharge our prosperity is to make the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit permanent; it expired on December 31, 2007. With foreign governments actively recruiting U.S. companies to base research operations abroad, the R&D tax credit is a proven incentive for companies to expand innovative activities in America.
It is also important that the best minds in the world have the opportunity to work in our country. Current visa restraints limiting the number of U.S.-educated foreign-born workers permitted to stay here must be reformed. One large financial institution recently tried to hire 200 foreign-born students who had graduated from Ivy League schools and were seeking employment in the U.S. Only 60 were able to get work visas and stay in the U.S. The remaining students mostly accepted jobs in London.
Kay Bailey Hutchison is the senior U.S. Senator from Texas and is Chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.