During a Senate hearing in 1983, the mean Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores in mathematics were reported to have dropped from 502 in 1963 to 466 in 1980. During the same year, high school seniors planning to specialize in education scored an average 48 points below the national average on the mathematics section of the SAT. The full guide that lawmakers were certainly aware of the dropping SAT scores and viewed it as a threat to U.S. global standing, both in terms of “national security” and economic wellbeing.
The Education for Economic Security Act (EES A) of 1984 was initiated with concern for the “nation’s ability to defend itself,” but enhancement of U.S. high-tech business’ ability to compete in the international markets was another aim of the legislation. The stated purpose was to provide funding for training and retraining teachers in mathematics and science and to provide “incentives for cooperation and joint projects between educational institutions and the private sector.”
During 1984, for every million citizens, the USSR had 260 electrical engineers graduate from college, Japan had 163 graduates while the U.S. only had 67 graduates. In 1981, there were 70 engineers for every 10,000 people in the U.S. while Japan had almost 6 times more engineers. Japan’s turnout in engineers seemed to correspond to their 70% market share of 64k RAM memory chips and large shares of other high-tech import products. During the same year in the U.S., 43 out of 45 of the states responding to a survey reported a shortage of math instructors. Lawmakers believed the lack of engineers correlated to the lack of mathematics instructors in public schools and decided to authorize the use of $750 million during fiscal years 1984 and 1985 for teacher training and retraining programs in mathematics and science education under title 2 of the EESA. The act also provided financial aid for students planning to teach mathematics, science or engineering by authorizing the National Science Foundation to award scholarships providing $5,000 for each year of 4 years of school.
The EESA was one of the first pieces of legislation to invite big business into schools’ doors. Title 3 authorized $90 million in 1984 and 1985 for forming partnerships between educational institutions and the “private sector” to work on “special projects” including “improvement of instruction in mathematics, science, computer science, and engineering, for awarding scholarships to students at institutions of higher education in these fields…” The “improvement of instruction” efforts was directed towards research in the same fields and “faculty exchange programs” with private business. Section 305 of the act gave authorization for “personnel of local business concerns to serve as consultants, lecturers, teaching assistants, or teachers of mathematics, science, or computer science in the elementary or secondary schools within the state.”
The EESA also included a controversial amendment introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch which prohibited the use of federal funds for “any course of instruction the substance of which is secular humanism.” Although “investing” in mathematics and science education as a means to strengthen military and economic innovation has been a bipartisan effort, the EESA represented a stronger concern for economic competitiveness and innovation, lacking serious attempts to create more opportunities for low-income schools.