Gillibrand: Math and science are key to the future of the workforce

May 11, 2011

Ten years ago, No Child Left Behind was signed into law, promising to revolutionize the American education system.

Now, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is among those calling for its overhaul.

More math, more science, more engineering.

A small coalition of Republicans and Democrats, including Gillibrand, is attempting to re-brand No Child Left Behind while changing some of its major components.

The goal: changing the face of the nation's workforce.

Citing an estimate that employment in science-related fields will grow by 33,000 jobs by 2018 in New York alone, Gillibrand is pushing for changes to federal education funding to help make that prediction a reality.

"What we're seeing over the last 10 years is the boom of high-tech, biotech, nanotech, energy technology," Gillibrand says.

The legislative package includes four bills, that together would:

  • Push math and science training for teachers–to-be;
  • Create grants that would bring expensive educational tools for engineering and science into classrooms, and
  • Bolster field-related curriculum.

But the Congressional Budget Office has not scored the legislation, which is a crucial step to determine how much a particular bill would cost - and where the money would come from.

"The reason why this isn't scored is because basically we're rewriting the No Child Left Behind Law," Gillibrand explains. "No Child Left Behind has been a failure. While it had good goals of oversight and accountability and testing, it was never implemented as intended. And it was never funded."

NCLB: Here for now

No Child Left Behind calls on every public school to achieve 100 percent proficiency in math and English by 2014, but experts warn that up to 80 percent of American schools could fall short of that mark.

Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan has even called the law "toxic" and "demoralizing."

There's broad-based agreement changes need to happen Gillibrand says, but the senator admits these changes will not happen overnight.  She's predicting that overhauling NCLB will take at least two or three years - and that implementing those changes will take even longer.