Commentary: How NOT to Make America Great Again

Dan Berglund, president of the State Science & Technology Institute, offers this analysis of the budget proposal offered by the Trump administration:

The Trump Administration’s skinny budget proposal calls itself, “A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” From the information contained in the document, it is clear the Administration does not view science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship and the economic development efforts built around those activities as the path forward to making “America great again.” The program eliminations and drastic cuts are not the way to move the country forward economically. So what is behind this proposal? Two things: 1) a fight over the proper role of the federal government in the economy, and 2) a negotiating tactic to attempt to lull advocates into thinking program survival or lesser cuts are a victory. A full community response is needed and all of us must get off the sidelines and on to the playing field.

The budget blueprint proposes drastic cuts for research at NIH, DOE’s Office of Science, NOAA and EPA and would eliminate a score of federal programs that serve as the cornerstone of federal activity in supporting an innovation economy, including the Economic Development Administration, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, ARPA- E, the Appalachian Regional Commission, SBA’s Regional Innovation Clusters program and CDFI Fund, among others. (The National Science Foundation is not mentioned in the proposal, so details on how much the Administration will propose it be cut will not be available until the full budget is released in April or May. Similarly, the Regional Innovation Strategies program is not mentioned specifically in the budget proposal.) All of these proposals are against the aims of SSTI’s policy platform for federal support of innovation economies.

Motivations behind the budget proposal
There appear to be two primary motivations behind the budget proposal: 1) a fight once again over the role of the federal government in the economy, and 2) a negotiating tactic to attempt to lull advocates into thinking program survival or lesser cuts are a victory.
Throughout the 62-page document there are recycled ideological talking points to justify program elimination. Many comments contained in the document indicate a fundamental lack of understanding of the programs they propose to eliminate or the belief that the federal government has no role in economic development, including:

  • EDA has “limited measurable impacts and duplicates other Federal programs”
  • MEP centers would “transition solely to non-Federal revenue sources, as was originally intended when the program was established”
  • Some SBA programs including Regional Innovation Clusters are targeted because “the private sector provides effective mechanisms to foster local business development and investment”
  • ARPA-E should be eliminated because “the private sector is better positioned to finance disruptive energy research and development and to commercialize innovative technologies”

Never mind that numerous reports have been done about EDA’s economic impact, that Congress reauthorized the MEP program just last year with a funding structure that includes federal funding and without federal funding the remaining centers would drop their focus on small and medium-sized manufacturers, and that the private sector alone does not provide effective mechanisms to encourage economic development or disruptive energy R&D.

Beyond a clear ideological view that the federal government has no role in promoting economic growth — a position rejected since at least the early 1800s when the federal government funded canals and other key infrastructure items, it is hard to view this proposal as anything more than a negotiating tactic. As anyone who has bought a house or bargained for an item at a flea market knows, you start with a low ball offer knowing that you’ll settle higher and that both you and the seller will ultimately be happy with the final price.

But this budget is not a real estate negotiation and settling for reduced cuts and declaring victory should not be an option for any of us.

A concluding thought
There is broad popular support for an economic growth agenda focused on innovation, science, technology, and entrepreneurship. We regret the Administration’s initial proposal would send this country in a different direction. We look forward to doing our part and working with others to make our case to Congress.

Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Opens Aerospace, STEM Exhibit in Indy

Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust Allison Branch volunteer and retiree Betsy Spencer shows visitors an AE 3007 jet engine on display at the new, reopened museum in downtown Indianapolis.

The following is a release from Rolls-Royce: 

The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch is reopening the James A. Allison Exhibition Center at a new, modern downtown Indianapolis location. The nearly 6,000 square foot facility, located at the Rolls-Royce Meridian Center office, 450 S. Meridian Street, will display an amazing collection of exhibits, and demonstrate a great deal of pride in Indiana’s past, in powering thousands of civil and military aircraft and ships. Using technology and hands-on displays, the Exhibition is designed to engage and inspire youth to pursue aerospace careers.

Visitors to the Exhibition Center will see a collection of jet engines and other equipment made in Indianapolis that power today’s and yesterday’s aircraft – including engines that power C-130J Super Hercules; V-22 Osprey; Global Hawk; Citation X+s; Embraer ERJ jets; various commercial helicopters; and historical engines such as the Allison V-1710 that powered the legendary North American P-51 Mustang, P-40s, and other aircraft. A Rolls-Royce LiftFan®, which provides unique vertical lift capability for the F-35B Lightning II, is also on display.

In addition to static displays, each exhibit zone is accompanied by an interactive video module with historic, technical and graphical information of the engines. Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) content is incorporated to help guide educators and students through advances in aerospace engineering.

“Since opening our first science and technology exhibition in 1954 – then called Powerama – to citizens, customers and employees, we have believed it is important to show the legacy of more than 100 years of amazing power and progress here in Indianapolis. We also aim to provide visitors a glimpse at our future for the next generation of scientists, technologists, engineers and innovators,” said David Newill, President of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust – Allison Branch.

“The Heritage Trust’s mission is to protect and preserve our legacy while demonstrating the innovation that has progressed throughout the decades at Rolls-Royce and our preceding company, Allison Gas Turbines in Indianapolis. This new downtown location gives us an opportunity to share our history in new and exciting ways with Rolls-Royce employees, retirees, customers and the public,” said Phil Burkholder, President of Defense Aerospace, Rolls-Royce North America. “The Heritage Trust will continue to be free and open to the general public. This is made possible by its donors and the hard work of volunteers, which mostly consist of dedicated, retired employees from Rolls-Royce and Allison.”

Larger groups of more than 6 people wanting to visit the Exhibit must register on-line at www.rolls-royce.com/HeritageIndy. The Exhibit is free and open to the public Tuesday-Friday from 10 am to 3 pm. Donations are accepted and help the organization build new exhibits.

Talent is Everything

cSignificant numbers of talented people, not to mention entrepreneurs, in the STEM fields come from international backgrounds. Home countries are trying to entice these men and women to return, while U.S. policy makes it difficult for them to stay here, apply the lessons they have learned and be meaningful economic contributors.

The Kauffman Foundation has more:

The United States stands to lose valuable economic contributors unless it removes immigration barriers to international STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who earn advanced degrees here, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

International Ph.D. students in the United States on temporary visas accounted for nearly two-fifths (39 percent) of all Ph.D.s in STEM fields in 2013 – a proportion that has doubled over the past three decades. If the trend continues, the majority of STEM Ph.D.s from U.S. universities will go to international students by 2020.

The report, “Will They Stay or Will They Go? International STEM Students Are Up for Grabs,” conducted by Richard Appelbaum and Xueying Han at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that nearly two out of five international STEM students are undecided about whether to stay in America or return to their home countries after graduation. More than a third of them are aware of programs designed to lure them back to their countries of origin, at the same time U.S. immigration policy makes it difficult for them to remain here.

The ability to retain international STEM graduates has implications for U.S. entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth. In 2014, 29 percent of all new U.S. startups were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, reflecting a startup rate nearly twice as high as that of U.S.-born adults.

“Innovation is one of America’s strongest assets, but other nations are gaining on us,” said Yasuyuki Motoyama, director in Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “These students represent talented scientists and engineers. If we want to maintain our edge amid intensifying global competition, then our immigration policies must be modified to make it easier for international STEM students to make America their permanent home.”

The Kauffman report draws from 2,322 responses to an email survey of domestic and international graduate students enrolled in STEM programs at the 10 U.S. universities with the largest number of international students. Thirty-four percent of the respondents were international students holding temporary visas.

The report recommends that Congress take action to open the immigration door wider to international STEM students, including:

  • Adopt the Immigration Innovation Act (or the I-Squared Act), which would increase the H-1B visa annual cap from 65,000 to between 115,000 and 195,000, depending on demand and market conditions.
  • Adopt the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy Act of 2015 (or the STAPLE Act), which would allow international students who earn STEM Ph.D.s from U.S universities and receive job offers from U.S. employers to be admitted for permanent resident status and exempted from H-1B visa limitations.
  • Amend the H-1B visa system to allow all individuals to switch employers/jobs.

The Kauffman researchers recommended that Congress avoid lumping illegal immigration with legal immigration in one bill, cautioning that “politics should play no role in an issue so critical to the future of U.S. competitiveness.”

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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Positive Developments on Pro-Teacher/Pro-Student Measures in 2016

26256966There were some notable strong successes on pro-teacher/pro-student issues during the 2016 Indiana legislative session. The Next Generation Hoosier Educators Scholarship (HB 1002) allows the Commission for Higher Education to award college scholarships for up to 200 of the best and brightest future teachers. These students must have graduated in the top 20% of their class and received the top 20th percentile scores on the SAT/ACT exams. Upon graduation, scholarship recipients have the requirement to teach in Indiana for five consecutive years.

While the administration set up the program in HB 1002, the Legislature appropriated $10 million in HB 1001. The Chamber advocated for this program to assist with the potential teacher shortages moving forward. We believe that this legislation is a great first step in recruiting strong teachers into the field as well as helping to raise the profession. Strong teachers lead to strong students, which will eventually lead to strong and talented employees.

Also in the good bucket column is HB 1005, which also sought to assist in the teacher shortage issue by providing career pathways and mentorship opportunities for teachers in Indiana schools. The Chamber stressed that mentorship opportunities can help teachers during their beginning years and have significant application for other professions as well. Mentorship is a key tool in attracting and retaining strong employees in the workforce and it is something that the Chamber thinks could and should be utilized to help with teacher
shortages in specific areas such as STEM and special education.

We also supported language in the bill providing supplemental pay for teachers that take on leadership roles in their schools. Another teacher incentive contained in HB 1005 was the creation of a Dual Credit Teacher Stipend Matching Grant Program for eligible educators who teach dual credit courses and are in the process of obtaining or have finished their master’s degree in that subject area. No appropriation was made this year (likely next year during the budget process).

During conference committee time, Chamber-supported language from SB 334 was added into HB 1005 that would allow for a second application period for voucher students. This way if a student were to change schools during the year, it would ensure that the money truly followed the child – specifically during the second semester. Under previous law, should a student change to a different voucher school (for any reason, including parent’s job relocation, divorce, dropout, expulsion or simply to provide a better educational opportunity or fit for that child), they lose that voucher for the remainder of the school year. By contrast, if a traditional public school student were to transfer to a different traditional public school, the money follows the child for the second semester. The Chamber strongly advocated that no child should be treated any differently based on their school choice.

Opponents argued feebly that the bill was an expansion of the voucher program, but the Chamber stressed that it was merely providing students with fair access to funding for their education and did not change any eligibility requirements. Should a child need to transfer schools – for whatever reason – they should have a right to be educated and have funding follow them appropriately. Language from SB 334 regarding background checks and student safety was also added to the bill calling for a child protection index check requirement to the current system of background checks for new employees of school systems.

Specifically, the language requires that the Department of Child Services must notify a school employer if a potential employee has ever been the subject of a substantiated report of child abuse or neglect, and states that confidentiality agreements between teachers and employers moving forward can no longer protect a former employee regarding any substantiated report of child abuse or neglect.

State Board of Education — New and Improved?

The revamped Indiana State Board of Education met on June 1 with very little fanfare or drama compared to previous board meetings. The new board follows the passage of SEA 1, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman (R-Markle), which required a change in
the composition as well as a reconstitution of the board.

While the Indiana Chamber was happy for a productive meeting in June, only time will tell if this cooperation will last long term with a majority of the board members being appointed by the Governor and with Superintendent Glenda Ritz’s recent announcement to run against Gov. Pence in 2016. They have very different philosophies when it comes to education policy.

As a reminder, the Indiana Chamber publicly supported the House version of the legislation that simply allowed the State Board to elect its own chair, HB 1609 authored by Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville). We felt this was the most simple and straightforward way to fix the problems that had been occurring with the State Board over the past two years. However, the Senate version of the bill was the vehicle chosen to move through the legislative process so we worked diligently to make sure the bill was in the best shape possible.

The legislation, signed into law by Gov. Pence on May 7, included a 2017 implementation date for electing a new chair of the State Board, the creation of a vice chair of the board that shares agenda-setting responsibilities with the chair (which we expect to be elected during the July board meeting) and changed the makeup of the board itself. The Governor’s appointees decreased from 10 to eight, with two legislative appointees added – one by the Speaker of the House and one from the President Pro Tempore.

Gov. Pence reappointed the following three new members to the State Board:

  • Eddie Melton – a resident of Merrillville (First District), Melton works as manager of federal governmental relations and community relations at NIPSCO. He was also appointed by the Governor to serve on the Commission on the Social Status of Black Males and serves as the Midwest regional director on the American Association of Blacks in Energy.
  • Dr. Vince Bertram – a resident of Zionsville (Fifth District), Bertram serves as president and CEO of Project Lead The Way, the nation’s leading provider of K-12 STEM programs serving more than 6,500 elementary, middle and high schools across the country. Bertram is the former superintendent of the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and was appointed by the U.S. State Department to be the STEM education expert for the United States Speaker and Specialist Program. Bertram also serves on the Indiana Chamber’s K-12 policy committee.
  • Lee Ann Kwiatkowski – a resident of Greenwood (Ninth District), Kwiatkowski currently serves as superintendent for school improvement at the Metropolitan School District of Warren Township in Indianapolis. She is also a former staffer at the Indiana Department of Education where she served in such roles as director of school turnaround, director of differentiated learning and director of the Title I
    program.

The reappointed members of the State Board include:

  • Dr. David Freitas – a resident of Granger (Second District) and has served in higher education for over 30 years including time spent as a university vice provost, dean of education at four universities and dean of the schools of business, fine arts and technology.
  • Cari Wicker – a resident of Uniondale (Third District) and a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher at Riverview Middle School in Huntington.
  • Sarah O’Brien – a resident of Avon (Fourth District) and a fourth-grade teacher at River Birch Elementary School.
  • Gordon Hendry – a resident of Indianapolis (Seventh District) who serves as first vice president of CBRE, Inc.
  • BJ Watts – a resident of Evansville (Eighth District) who teaches in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation.

The Governor did not re-appoint Tony Walker, Troy Albert or Brad Oliver, while members Andrea Neal and Dan Elsener (the Indiana Chamber’s current chair of the K-12 policy committee) requested that they not be considered for reappointment.

Speaker of the House Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) appointed Dr. Byron Earnest to the board. Earnest was Indiana’s 2010 Teacher of the Year, is the current head of schools for Hoosier Academies and is the former principal for Manual High School in IPS. President Pro Tempore David Long (R-Fort Wayne) appointed Steve Yager of Fort Wayne, who is the former superintendent of Southwest and Northwest Allen County Schools.

Science on Display: Dow Ambassadors Connect with Students

dowAsking 10-year-olds their opinions about school subjects sometimes can yield unenthusiastic responses.

But when questioned if she enjoys science, Kelli Woods – a fourth grader at New Augusta South Public Academy in Indianapolis – passionately nods and answers, “Yes, very much – because I get to learn about new stuff and find out how it works.”

Kelli describes the project she entered in the school’s fourth grade science fair, in which she tested how soaking white roses in colored water would impact their appearance.

“My hypothesis was that the red (would make the rose change colors fastest) because it stains a lot,” she explains. “But it was actually the blue one.”

Dow AgroSciences’ Science Ambassadors gave guidance and judged the projects of Kelli and her classmates in late January in the New Augusta South gymnasium.

The scene was not a unique one as Dow’s brigade of over 300 staffers volunteer their time each year, often on nights and weekends. Last year, the ambassadors visited over 25 schools during about 75 events. Dow developed the program a decade ago, but added a major emphasis in 2012. Since then, officials estimate the company’s outreach efforts to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education have impacted more than 4,200 teachers and almost 200,000 students.

Read the full story online.

Non-Union Teacher Contract Bargaining Requires Flexibility

Finding, retaining and empowering great teachers must be a top priority for Indiana schools. However, the state’s teacher bargaining law ties the hands of administrators and forces the union-bargained contract and all its controls on every teacher in a district, whether or not they choose to even join the union.

Senate Bill 302, authored by Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon), would allow school districts to negotiate employment contracts directly with individual teachers or groups of teachers that choose not to join their union, instead of being forced to negotiate exclusively within the bargaining agreement and impose those same contract provisions on all teachers.

Today, schools and districts cannot recruit superb educators and those with specific skills needed (e.g. STEM, foreign languages, etc.) and cannot be offered higher pay or other incentives. And in districts with teacher shortages, there is no room to negotiate a contract to hire a teacher that might be needed to fill an important gap. There is no flexibility – it’s the union’s contract or nothing, even in a right-to-work state like Indiana.

Teachers are professionals and should be treated like it. They have the right to be a union member and bargain collectively should they so choose, but they also should have the right to negotiate their own contracts. If we want better teachers in this state, we need to encourage and support excellence.

The bill would free teachers from a longstanding stranglehold on contracts, allow for excellence to be rewarded and recruited, and stop treating all teachers like interchangeable parts under the same contract terms regardless of skills, performance or a school’s needs.

Please take a moment to send a message to your state senator and the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee to ask for support of Senate Bill 302 to provide for more flexibility for school districts and teachers.

Legislative Testimony: Bill Will Aid Talent Retention

The Indiana Chamber’s Caryl Auslander testified today in support of House Bill 1054 – Higher Ed Co-Op and Internship Programs, authored by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion).

The Indiana Chamber supports this initiative to tie together efforts from our universities, employers and students in a way to better support all three entities.

The program will incentivize students to stay in Indiana and have access to Indiana employers for potential employment after graduation. Ultimately, we believe this pilot program will help attract and retain additional bright future employees for our state, specifically in the much needed science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas.

On a related note, the Chamber has an affiliated program, Indiana INTERNnet, which is an internship-matching program. Since Indiana INTERNnet began a little more than a decade ago, the service has helped more than 60,000 students and 5,500 Hoosier employers access important tools and make connections with each other.

Needed: Energy Academy Participants, Sponsors

The Duke Energy Academy at Purdue University is looking for a few good students and teachers (as well as additional sponsors). Applications for the free week-long summer program are due by January 18.

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Why is this important?

By 2030, the global demand for energy will have increased by 50% based on the predicted human population increase. A secure energy future, both in the United States and abroad, needs solutions that come from a diverse energy portfolio. Unfortunately, we face a national crisis in the number and quality of students entering the STEM disciplines that will have a future impact on our nation’s ability to lead the world in the energy sector.

To address these issues, Purdue University has launched an Energy Academy to inspire high school students and teachers in energy sciences and engineering. Participation is provided free of charge to the 42 participating students and 42 teachers. Teachers also will receive a $400 stipend.

The Energy Academy at Purdue will:

  • Conduct a week-long course (June 21-27) on STEM-related energy topics areas of power generation, transportation, power transmission, energy efficiency and new research frontier
  • Lectures: Guest speakers from Purdue, industry, and government will address energy-related topics of current interest and actively engage participants in open discussions
  • Tours: Examples include visit to a wind/solar farm, nuclear reactor and fossil energy power plant
  • Projects: A few student teams will work on energy-related research projects (hands on) based on STEM disciplines while others will participate in a team-based energy policy discussion. Teachers will develop STEM-based energy lesson plans that may be used as teaching modules for their classrooms
  • Hands-on and demonstration: Examples include wind turbine and solar challenge, energy storage, electricity distribution and transmission

Full details and registration available here.

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, Girls Inc. focus on STEM

TGirls Inc. recently collaborated with the Girl Scouts of Central Indiana and the IU School of Informatics STARS (Science, Technology and Research Scholars) to learn about virtual reality, video game creation and production, and using Photoshop.

Participants started off in a virtual reality lab. In this room, the girls had an opportunity to build their own virtual world and then navigate someone through it. Next, they moved to the advanced visualization lab. This room had large monitors that broke down the visual aspects of the virtual world. The girls learned about why these screens are needed and how virtual reality worlds are brought together. The last room they visited contained a green screen.

All of the girls posed in front of the green screen and then used Photoshop to place themselves in different scenes from around the world. Through this process, the girls saw how easy it is to manipulate a picture.

“They got to use Photoshop for good and not for bad,” said Adrianne Slash, program support coordinator, Girls Inc.

The girls really enjoyed the last room that they were in. It displayed artwork from video games that IUPUI students had made. The room showed them that they are capable of making games of their own someday.