Gates calls on Congress to fund education, research

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Speaking before the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology on Wednesday, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates outlined suggestions to build U.S. strength in an increasingly competitive international high-technology market.

Gates suggestions include improving science and math education for U.S. students. Unless more students can be attracted to science and math, Gates warns, the U.S.’s competitive advantage will erode and its ability to create high-paying jobs will suffer.

Gates thinks Congress is on the right track with the tortuously-named America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education and Science (COMPETES) Act of 2007, but says that full funding of the act is imperative to its success. Gates also suggests that Congress increase the use of data to measure student achievement.

Gates thinks that Federal funding for basic research needs to be improved, but 10 percent annually over the next seven years.

“Even though we know that basic research drives economic progress, real federal spending on basic research has fallen since 2005,” said Gates.

That research funding, he said, helps to support the education of the next generation of scientists and engineers who then create commercially successful products for U.S. companies.

Gates also called on Congress to reform immigration policies to allow more “highly skilled professionals” from abroad to work in the U.S. by raising the cap on H-1B visas, to help retain foreign-born employees with a path to permanent residency. He doesn’t see this effort as at odds with the idea of spurring more American citizens into science and math-related professions; he said that American companies simply won’t have the talent they need.

“The shortage of scientists and engineers is so acute that we must do both: reform our education system and reform our immigration policies,” said Gates.

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