The DeHavilland Blog

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Finally - a big vision for education

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House Minority Leader, has outlined the Democratic Party's five-part "innovation agenda" which puts education front and center. (Good article here - free registration may be required.)

The five parts include:
  • Creating an educated, skilled workforce in the vital areas of science, math, engineering, and information technology - done through a combination of scholarship incentives, improved financial support (tuition payments, better salaries, etc.) for teachers in STEM areas, making tuition for students majoring in targeted disciplines tax-deductible, and making it easier (through visa rules) for overseas scholars to come here to teach.
  • Invest in a sustained federal research and development initiative that promotes public-private partnerships - driving innovation by doubling NSF funding (from $5.5 billion to $11 billion), establishing regional centers of excellence for basic research, and establishing an R&D tax credit.
  • Guarantee affordable access to broadband technology for all Americans within the next five years - the US is currently 16th in the world for broadband penetration; this plan would allow for an investment in broadband infrastructure through federal investments and tax credits.
  • Achieve energy independence in 10 years by developing emerging technologies for clean and sustainable alternatives that will strengthen national security and protect the environment - fund the Department of Energy to invest in high-risk, high-return research on energy alternatives involving biotech, nanotech, solar, and fuel cells. Interestingly, this "10 years to energy independence" was prominently mentioned in The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman - I'm sure that's no coincidence.
  • Provide small businesses with the tools to encourage entrepreneurial innovation and job creation - this is a political catch-all, but it's nice to see a call for universal and affordable access to health insurance, small business financial support and technical assistance, and reduced regulation.

No budget figures were attached to this, but clearly it would require a monumental investment. The question is, is that an investment we should be making? What are the trajectories if we follow this new path, versus sticking with the current path?

Answering only for myself, I think this is an extremely exciting vision - congratulations to the Democrats for putting it out there. (For the record, it doesn't matter to me which party puts stuff like this on the table - good ideas are good ideas.) And based on the article, it sounds as if it gets a good response from innovation businesses; the CEO of Cisco and the head of government affairs for Microsoft, are both quoted as being warm to it.

Of course, it's just a floater - and a floater from a party without control of the house, senate, or white house. But if these ideas get some traction, they'll have to become part of the debate - and by making these types of things the center of the conversation, both parties will have to factor them into their campaigning and legislative agendas. So again - hooray for good thinking - let's see these things move forward!

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