Merkley, Franken, Begich, Gillibrand Introduce Legislation to Promote Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Washington, DC – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley, Al Franken (D-MN), Mark Begich (D-AK), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today introduced legislation designed to increase student access to courses in STEM education subjects and provide additional resources to recruit, train, and support teachers of these subjects.

If we don’t train our children for the jobs of the future, we won’t be able to compete in the future,” Merkley said. “Whenever I talk to companies like Intel back in Oregon, they tell me that STEM education is key, and in far too many schools, the resources aren’t there to prepare our students for careers in engineering and science. This legislation will help address this deficit.”

“Our nation’s future competitiveness in the global economy depends on how well we prepare our students in STEM fields, and right now we’re lagging behind.” said Sen. Franken.  “As I travel around Minnesota, I hear from our high-tech businesses that jobs are going unfilled because people don’t have the technological skill sets they need to fill them.  This legislation will help maintain our nation’s competitive technological edge.”

Alaska’s 21st  century economy requires us to prepare our students in STEM fields from a young age,” said Sen. Begich. “Teachers need the resources necessary to prepare students for jobs in Alaska’s growing resource development, health care and telecommunications industries. We can’t keep stalling efforts to improve STEM education in America, each year puts us further behind and at risk for losing our competitive edge in the global economy.”

America is home to the world’s strongest economy, the greatest colleges and universities, and the world’s brightest minds,” Senator Gillibrand said. “But if we’re going to keep our place atop the global economy, we must prepare our students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. That starts with sparking more interest in math, science and technology, drawing more STEM teachers to educate students in high-need areas, and streamlining proficiency standards that hold us back. We are relying on our children today to be the innovators of tomorrow. It’s our job to make sure they are prepared.”

If you look at high schools in 1961 and you look at high schools in 2011 you will see predominately similar programs over the last 50 years.  If you look at the town of Hillsboro, Oregon in 1961 and you look at Hillsboro, Oregon in 2011 you will see enormous change,” said engineering and technology teacher Don Domes, Hillsboro High School. “The need for our students to be able to compete in the global economy requires more emphasis on STEM education.

The legislation that Senators Merkley, Franken, Begich and Gillibrand introduced today will help improve student achievement in STEM education by improving instruction in STEM subjects. The legislation aims to:

  • Improve student engagement in, and increase student access to, courses in STEM subjects;
  • Recruit, train, and support highly-effective teachers in STEM subjects and providing robust tools and supports for students and teachers;
  • Close student achievement gaps, and prepare more students to be on track to college and career readiness and success in these subjects. 

Merkley and Franken, members of the HELP committee, will seek to include the bill in the HELP committee’s re-write of the No Child Left Behind Act later this year. The legislation has been endorsed by the STEM Education Coalition,  American Chemical Society, National Science Teachers Association, National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, Hands on Science Partnership, Microsoft Corporation, The Campaign for Environmental Literacy, Vernier, Education Development Center Inc. (EDC), Society of Women Engineers, Intel, Oregon Science Teachers Association, Illinois Math and Science Academy, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Committee for the Advancement of STEM Specialty Schools.