This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Flake (R-AZ) to H.R. 2847, the fiscal year 2010 appropriations for the Departments of Commerce and Justice and for federal science and other programs. H.R. 2847 was a multi-billion measure that, among other things, expanded funding for criminal justice programs, and provided for improved scientific research, including programs to study climate change. The amendment would have eliminated $4,000,000 provided in the bill for the JASON Science Education Project in Ashburn, Virginia. Republican Members offered a series of amendments, of which this was one, to remove small “earmarked” projects from H.R. 2847. An earmark is the provision of funds in a major appropriation bill for a specific project or purpose.
Rep. Flake began his statement in support of the amendment by acknowledging that “science is important for any child's education, and if local schools wish to supplement their science curriculum with the services provided by the JASON Project, I believe they certainly should have that choice.” However, he then noted that “this earmark is going to the JASON Project organization, not to the schools who wish to purchase its products (and) . . . JASON (is) a subsidiary of National Geographic, one of the world’s largest nonprofit science and educational organizations. In addition to the (other federal) funding it receives . . . The Motorola Foundation, Shell Oil Company, and Microsoft also provide funding for JASON. Why, with so many resources, does the JASON Project still receive earmarks year after year after year? . . . If the JASON Project can't continue its operations without Federal funds after 18 years, I think you have to question its effectiveness. We have to stop funding projects like this year after year after year.”
Rep. Mollohan (D-WV), who was managing H.R. 2847 for the Democrats, opposed the amendment. He noted that his appropriations subcommittee, which drafted the bill, held hearings that emphasized “the critical need for science education programs, such as the JASON Project, to attract America's youth to science disciplines and to better equip our teachers through professional development. “ Mollohan also argued that the work of the JASON Project is the kind of private-public partnerships that he said Rep. Flake has often praised.
Rep. Langevin (D-RI), who also opposed the amendment, said we need to give “our future generation the tools that they need to succeed . . . how are we going to get out of our deficit and ensure that we are creating wealth for the future, that we are creating prosperity for our country if we don't invest in our young people, if we don't invest in our future? That's what the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programs in particular do . . . We're investing in our young people . . . Since 1989 the JASON curriculum, which is a free curriculum, has been distributed to over 7 million students and teachers.”
The vote was 119-306. One hundred and fifteen Republicans and four Democrats voted “aye”. Two hundred and forty-seven Democrats and fifty-nine Republicans voted “nay”. As a result, the House rejected the amendment and the funding for the JASON Science Education Project in Ashburn, Virginia was preserved in the appropriation.