Click here to watch Floor debate
Lucas explained that STEM education for rural students is not an isolated problem: Nearly half of all schools are considered rural, and more than nine million students, or roughly 20% of all schoolchildren, attend rural schools. And of the 21 million Americans who lack access to broadband, the majority live in rural areas. These barriers set rural students back, making them less competitive in the evolving job market.
Lucas also noted that STEM jobs are growing three times faster than non-STEM jobs, and students who bring STEM degrees and skills to the workforce have starting salaries more than 30 percent higher than their counterparts.
The Rural STEM Education Act supports research and development activities to improve understanding of the challenges rural communities are facing in providing and sustaining quality STEM education programs and takes steps to address them.
H.R. 210 helps develop best practices for accessing and using computer-based and online STEM education courses. It helps schools combine online STEM education with hands-on training and apprenticeships to give students both theoretical and practical understanding of science and math skills.
This bill also takes steps to address one of the key obstacles to rural STEM education – reduced connectivity, and, particularly, the lack of broadband access. It directs the National Institutes of Standards and Technology to establish a prize competition to stimulate innovations in technologies to deploy broadband connectivity to underserved rural communities. It also establishes a working group to set key research priorities for improving broadband access so rural communities can enjoy the same connectedness as the rest of the country.
This bill supports opportunities for rural educators to refresh and enhance their own STEM knowledge, such as training in computer science or research opportunities at Federal Laboratories and universities.
Lastly, the bill broadens the participation of rural students in STEM by emphasizing place-based learning, which gives students the direct access to the STEM knowledge present in their communities and local environment.
Taken together, the measures in the bill will dramatically improve rural STEM education.
It’s been endorsed by the STEM Education Coalition, Battelle, STEMx, the National Science Teaching Association, the After School Alliance., the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., Microsoft, the American Chemical Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU), and the National FFA Organization.
The Rural STEM Education Act was cosponsored by Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) 32 other Members of Congress.