Bill Gates: Remove Limits on H1-B Visas

VIA The Guardian

Thursday March 8, 2007 9:01 PM

AP Photo WCAP105, WCAP103

By NANCY ZUCKERBROD

AP Education Writer

WASHINGTON
(AP) – Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told Congress on Wednesday that
overhauls of the nation’s schools and immigration laws are urgently
needed to keep jobs from going overseas. “The U.S. cannot maintain its
economic leadership unless our work force consists of people who have
the knowledge and skills needed to drive innovation,” Gates told the
Senate committee that oversees labor and education issues.

Gates,
whose charitable foundation has given away more than $3 billion since
1999 for educational programs and scholarships, noted that about 30
percent of U.S. ninth-graders fail to graduate on time. “As a nation,
we should start with this goal: Every child in the United States
graduating from high school,” he said.

Gates also
challenged lawmakers to push for higher educational standards and to
make more challenging coursework available to students.

A federal
study released last month showed about a third of high schoolers fail
to take a standard-level curriculum, which is defined as including at
least four credits of English and three credits each of social studies,
math and science.

Gates also
called on lawmakers to give more resources and attention to improving
the teaching of math and science – knowledge essential to many of
today’s jobs. Another recent federal study found 40 percent of high
school seniors failed to perform at the basic level on a national math
test. On a national science test, half of 12th-graders didn’t show
basic skills.

“We
simply cannot sustain an economy based on innovation unless our
citizens are educated in math, science and engineering,” Gates said.

Legislation
moving through the Senate, backed by Democratic and Republican leaders,
seeks to get more people to become math and science teachers and would
improve training for them. The bill also seeks to get more highly
trained teachers in poor schools and would offer grants to states to
better align their teaching with what kids should know to succeed at a
job or in college.

Gates said
the nation’s economy depends on keeping the country’s borders open to
highly skilled workers, especially those with a science or engineering
background. Federal law provides 65,000 H1-B visas for scientists,
engineers, computer programmers and other professionals every budget
year. High-tech and other employers say that’s not enough.

“Even
though it may not be realistic, I don’t think there should be any
limit,” Gates said, adding that Microsoft hasn’t been able to fill
approximately 3,000 technical jobs in the United States because of a
shortage of skilled workers.

Sen.
Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., chairman of the Committee on Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions, said the issue would be addressed when
Congress takes up broad immigration reform legislation this session.
President Bush has expressed support for raising the visa cap.

Gates –
who is No. 1 on Forbes magazine’s list of richest Americans – also told
the committee in response to a question that he opposes repeal of the
federal estate tax. Current law will phase out the tax by 2010, but
without further action by Congress it will be restored at a 55 percent
rate in 2011.

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