President Barack Obama isn’t letting up on his mission for more STEM education in the United States.
Science, technology, engineering, and math have been on Obama’s radar since he first ran for president in 2008. In his budget last week, the president once again highlighted those academic areas with the inclusion of several new STEM education programs.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified last week on Capitol Hill regarding Obama’s budget. He said:
Reforming federal support to support an effective, cohesive national STEM education strategy is a top Administration priority...Our nation depends on an innovation economy, and America's capacity to build and create should never be limited by a shortage of talent in the STEM fields.
The president’s budget proposal moves 90 STEM programs across 11 different agencies under the authority of the Department of Education. The reorganization is meant to "improve the delivery, impact, and visibility of STEM efforts," the budget document states.
One of the major plans in his budget includes the $150 million STEM Innovation Networks program. It would provide competitive grants to school districts that partner with universities, nonprofits, businesses and others to improve STEM learning.
He also wants to create a professional STEM learning community that operates primarily online, enabling STEM educators to share innovative content, teach strategies, and research findings.
Along with this project, Obama would also “recognize and reward the most accomplished STEM educators as instructional leaders who would receive additional pay.
Also, Obama’s plan includes investing $80 million for STEM Teacher Pathways which would develop “100,000 new effective STEM teachers by recruiting, training, and placing talented recent college graduates and mid-career professionals in the STEM fields in high-need schools.”
Obama isn’t alone in his grand plans for STEM education. States are getting on board, too. Lawmakers are realizing that students need this kind of education to compete in a global economy.
The Next Generation Science Standards, which were released earlier this month, will help states adopt curriculum around STEM.
Maine Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage, a keen supporter of STEM education, says he wants the updated standards.
“Our goal is the preparation of students for college and/or careers,” he said in the press release from the Maine Department of Education. “We cannot do that with outdated standards. Not only must the information be up to date, so must the concepts and the way we teach them.”
But some states aren’t waiting for Obama or the next set of science standards.
The future of our industry, and frankly the economy as a whole, depends on our ability to raise a generation of technically savvy problem solvers.
In northwest Tennessee, a new website was recently launched to support and share educational advice in STEM education. The Utah state legislature appropriated $10 million to promote STEM education in the state. Washington Governor Jay Inslee released his state’s budget in late March and focused on STEM.
In Indiana, local manufacturers are sponsoring the National Robotics League (NRL) Championships in order to fuel young minds.
“The future of our industry, and frankly the economy as a whole, depends on our ability to raise a generation of technically savvy problem solvers who are eager to continue to push the innovation and technology envelope,” said Steve Wolsiffer, Indiana National Tooling and Machining Association Chapter President in a release.
It will take federal, state, local, and private resources in order for the United States to gain steam in STEM education.
As Obama said in his January inaugural address, “No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.”
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Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist whose work frequently appears in The Washington Post and The Christian Science Monitor. She is the author of two books. @SuziParker | TakePart.com