By Isaac S. Solano
Across the country, state legislators have renewed interests in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.
The United States Department of Education's STEM 2026 report, estimates that major American companies will need to add nearly 1.6 million STEM-skilled employees over the next five years.
Growing state economies is always a big focus for legislators and many are looking towards improving the STEM workforce as a way to address job growth in their states.
Some legislation has focused on helping young students build necessary STEM skills at an early age which may help to one day fill some of these jobs.
A new report, STEM Starts Early, by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and New America, highlights the importance of prioritizing and investing in STEM learning opportunities for all children. According to the report, “Teachers in early childhood environments need more robust training and professional development to effectively engage young children in developmentally appropriate STEM learning.”
Early STEM legislation was a popular topic with state legislators last year. Legislators in Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, New Jersey, among others, introduced legislation focused on improving STEM education throughout the K-12 system.
Legislators have also been active in improving STEM education for women and minority students.
During last year’s legislative session, New York introduced Senate Bill 1960. This legislation would have awarded grants to school districts to help encourage women and minorities students to pursue careers in STEM. Despite passing both chambers, this legislation was vetoed by the governor.
Although the New York bill ultimately did not become law, this policy discussion is far from over. This year, legislators in states such as Minnesota have introduced similar legislation. Minnesota House Bill 577 is aimed at awarding grants to fund and support disadvantaged girls in elementary and secondary school to explore STEM career fields.
Look for a session on this topic at Legislative Summit 2017.
For more resources on early STEM education check out NCSL’s Early STEM Education page.
Isaac S. Solano is an intern in NCSL’s Education Program.