Bipartisan Bill Promotes AI Education

Crowell & Moring LLP


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In May, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) announced legislation to encourage increased opportunities for artificial intelligence ("AI") education at colleges, universities and K-12 institutions.
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What You Need to Know

Key takeaway #1

U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell's proposed AI Education Act of 2024, if enacted, would promote increased opportunities for AI education at colleges and universities across the country.

Key takeaway #2

If enacted, the AI Education Act of 2024 would enable private entities working with higher education institutions or nonprofit organizations to compete for awards to promote AI research in the field of education via the National Science Foundation.

The AI Education Act of 2024

In May, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) announced legislation to encourage increased opportunities for artificial intelligence ("AI") education at colleges, universities and K-12 institutions. In the public remarks introducing the bipartisan AI Education Act of 2024, Senator Cantwell noted, "This bill will open doors to AI for students at all levels, and upskill our workforce to drive American tech innovation, entrepreneurship and progress in solving the toughest global challenges." Senator Moran summarized the need for the bill: "If we want to fully understand AI and remain globally competitive, we must invest in the future workforce today."

The bill, also known as Senate Bill 4394, would increase educational opportunities and provide additional resources to those studying artificial intelligence in schools, "with a preference for rural schools, emerging research institutions, community colleges and vocational schools, and minority serving institutions."

Opportunities for Financial Awards for AI Educational Programming

The bill would create an award program for research in AI in education that promotes partnership between private entities and higher education institutions and nonprofit organizations. The purpose of these awards is to "enable the eligible entities to promote research on teaching models, tools, and materials for artificial intelligence" and other emerging technologies.

Private entities would be eligible for awards if they work with an institution of higher education or a nonprofit organization. To be eligible for funding under the bill, programs would need to meet two broad requirements. First, the program must prepare teachers to "integrate artificial intelligence, key emerging technologies, and computational thinking into their classrooms in innovative ways." Second, the program must support areas of research such as providing learning opportunities for teaching AI, building models for teachers to use in AI instruction, creating "scalable models of professional development and ongoing support for teachers," or generating tools for "supporting student success and inclusion" in AI and other emerging technologies.

The bill would also create undergraduate and graduate scholarships and fellowships for students and professionals to study AI and quantum-related fields. The focus of the scholarships and fellowships is the intersection of AI and quantum hybrid computing in specific target areas, including agriculture, education, and advanced manufacturing. For example, Washington State University in Pullman, Washington in 2021, received designation as an Institute for Agricultural AI for Transforming Workforce and Decision Support, also known as AgAID. This institute, according to a news release, aimed to "integrate AI methods into agriculture operations for prediction, decision support and robotics-enabled agriculture to address the complex agricultural challenges facing Eastern Washington and the nation." In support for the AI Education Act, Senator Cantwell provided AgAID as an example of the intersection of research and development in AI and training in agriculture from her constituents, noting that "AgAID in Pullman is helping our farmers feed with world with AI solutions that overcome crop productivity challenges."

Finally, the bill contains two provisions specifically related to the classroom: the bill would prioritize AI as part of the National STEM Teacher Corps program and develop and introduce pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education "playbooks" to increase the availability of AI in school curriculum.

AI Education Act Garnering Industry Support

Technology-focused organizations have voiced their support for this bill. For example, companies like Microsoft, IonQ, and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation have all released statements urging adoption of the AI Education Act.

Teachers similarly echo this need for guidance on AI education and policy. In an EducationWeek Research Center survey of 924 educators conducted in 2023, 79% of educators say their districts have unclear policies on the use of AI. EducationWeek reports that "Two-thirds of those surveyed by the EducationWeek Research Center say students will need knowledge of AI because the technology already features so heavily in the products and services that are part of their daily lives. And another 60 percent say that employers are looking for people who can work with AI tools to do their jobs more efficiently."

The Path Forward for the AI Education Act of 2024

The AI Education Act of 2024 is in the first stages of the legislative process. Senator Cantwell introduced the bill on May 22, 2024 and it was subsequently referred to the Senate's Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee, which she chairs. The bill has not yet been set for committee debate.

Keeping an Eye on AI

The Senate's focus on AI innovation is not new. Senator Cantwell and Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) drafted the legislation in 2020 that created the National AI Advisory Committee. Senator Cantwell also introduced the Future of AI Innovation Act on April 18, 2024, another bipartisan bill aiming to ensure the U.S. maintains a global competitive edge on cutting edge AI development.

As we have recently highlighted 2023 as the year of artificial intelligence, we continue to predict that Congress will continue to emphasize the nexus of AI and technology education, regardless of change in political administrations. Crowell is ready to advise and assist AI companies, organizations, and educational institutions on these and other ongoing developments at the intersection of AI, technology, and education.

We would like to thank Mirenda Gwin, Summer Associate, for her contribution to this alert.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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