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Public Papers - 1990

Statement on Signing the Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering Education Act of 1990

1990-11-16

Today I am signing H.R. 996, the ``Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering Education Act of 1990.'' This Act is intended to encourage students to pursue fields of study in which Americans must excel if the United States is to maintain and advance its competitive position in the markets of the world. Excellence in these areas is crucial to developing both the professionals -- scientists and engineers -- and a work force that this country needs.

Mathematics and science education are an important priority for this Administration and the Nation. In September 1989, the Nation's Governors and I held the Education Summit, which led to the identification of six National Education Goals, two of which directly address science and mathematics achievement.

In developing the FY 1991 budget immediately following the Education Summit, the Administration took important steps to strengthen programs of Federal agencies and to increase funding for science and mathematics education. We intend to further develop that initiative through the work of a new interagency committee that is developing a strategic plan and priorities for the Administration's program in science and mathematics education.

I am pleased that the Congress has included in H.R. 996 a version of the National Science Scholars program that I proposed in April 1989. This program will award scholarships to high school students who have excelled in science and mathematics to encourage them to continue their education in these subjects at the undergraduate level. This new program will provide an important vehicle for demonstrating the Nation's commitment to excellence in science, mathematics, and engineering achievement and to the recognition of excellent young people who are pursuing higher education and careers in those fields.

I note that, under this legislation, State nominating committees will nominate students for the National Science Scholars program. Members of Congress will nominate students for scholarships under the National Academy of Science, Space, and Technology program authorized by H.R. 996. Determining eligibility for Federal funds is a significant governmental duty that, under the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, may be performed only by officers of the United States.

The Act requires that the nominating committees for the National Science Scholars program present to the President the names of four candidates, at least half of whom must be female, from each congressional district. The Act also requires the President to select two scholarship recipients, at least one of whom must be female, from each congressional district. This rigid selection quota based on sex is inconsistent with the Constitution. While I am pleased that the Congress answered my request for a National Science Scholars program, I will ask the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education to prepare legislation that will bring this Act into compliance with the Constitution.

H.R. 996 makes recipients of science scholarships who are convicted of felonies, or certain crimes involving controlled substances, ineligible for further scholarships authorized under the Act. There individuals would also be required to repay, with interest, any scholarships received. I interpret the phrase ``[e]xcept as provided . . . by . . . section 5301 of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988'' to mean that H.R. 996 in no way limits or eliminates the penalties imposed under section 5301. Thus, a person who is convicted of a Federal drug felony could, in addition to forfeiting future awards and repaying past awards, still be denied other Federal benefits pursuant to section 5301.

Section 721 of H.R. 996 is an objectionable provision that would extend until January 1, 1991, the comment period on a regulation proposed by the Secretary of Education to address an abuse of the student loan programs. The Department and its Inspector General have clearly documented the abuse. By extending the comment period, section 721 will unnecessarily impede the Secretary's ability to counter this abuse in a timely manner. Nevertheless, I expect the Department of Education to develop a sound final regulation -- based on comments received during the extended comment period -- to be effective for the 1991 - 1992 school year.

For the United States to attain the National Education Goals, particularly those in science and mathematics achievement, the Administration, the Congress, the States, local schools, and parents will all have to work together. H.R. 996 is one indication of this broad concern and cooperation. There is a continuing challenge, however, for all of us to work together in developing a truly national effort to make American students first in the world in science and mathematics achievement. I hope that all Americans will join me in this effort.

George Bush

The White House,

November 16, 1990.

Note: H.R. 996, approved November 16, was assigned Public Law No. 101 - 589.

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