Industry group touts tech education

The new president is touting better education as a priority, and the nation's largest high-tech trade association has signed up for that course.

The American Electronics Association, which has shortened its name to AeA, placed education at the top of a list of public policy priorities it is sending to the White House and Capitol Hill.

American schools are not producing enough engineers and computer scientists, AeA officials said Tuesday, adding that shortages threaten the U.S. technology industry's long-term ability to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

The association, which represents more than 3,500 high-tech companies, wants increased government spending on education — especially the teaching of math and science — and the adoption of national standards and testing for teachers, students and school administrators.

In recent years, the high-tech industry has responded to shortages of technology workers by pressing Congress to increase the number of visas made available to foreign computer scientists, engineers and other technology workers. But that is only a short-term solution, said Mark Stephenson, a former chairman of AeA. More needs to be done to get students in elementary and secondary schools interested in math and science so they will go into engineering and computer science in college, he said.

In addition to testing and setting standards for students, teachers and administrators, AeA wants more money spent to train teachers as technology evolves. The association also wants the federal government to assess the use of information technology in classrooms and the removal of regulatory barriers to online learning.

In addition to education, AeA lists four top public policy priorities:

Privacy. The association opposes privacy legislation, preferring to let the technology industry regulate itself. But it would support federal legislation if the alternative is "a crazy quilt of onerous, contradictory new state laws." Internet taxation. AeA officials want a continued moratorium on Internet taxes. The association says it does not oppose taxes on Internet sales, but does oppose multiple, confusing state laws that impose taxes on Internet transactions. International trade. AeA officials urged the government to pass a new Export Administration Act before Aug. 20. The act sets the nation's export control regime. The group also urges assisting China's entry into the World Trade Organization and restoring presidential fast-track trade negotiating authority. Broadband deployment. Association officials urged the government to avoid regulating the broadband market, where there are multiple service providers.

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