Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congressman Joe Kennedy (D-MA) today introduced new legislation to encourage women, minorities and economically disadvantaged students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The STEM Gateways Act would provide grants for classroom learning, career preparation, mentoring, internships, informal learning and other appropriate educational activities.
“New York is home to the greatest colleges and universities, and the world’s most innovative minds,” said Senator Gillibrand. “But if we’re going to compete and win in the global economy, we must prepare our students with the education they need for the jobs of the future. That starts with getting more talented young women, minorities, and students in high-need communities into the STEM pipeline. We are relying on our children today to be the innovators of tomorrow. It’s our job to make sure they are prepared.”
“For too long our national STEM efforts have failed to effectively reach critical segments of the US population,” said Rep Kennedy. “By underinvesting in educational opportunities for populations historically underrepresented in STEM fields, we aren’t just doing those individuals a disservice – we are leaving a tremendous amount of economic potential on the table. The STEM Gateways Act will help us close pervasive opportunity gaps and support the diverse and dynamic workforce that leadership in a global innovation economy requires.”
“As a former educator who represents Silicon Valley, I know firsthand that STEM Gateways Act is a step in the right direction to ensure that each and every child receives an excellent education,” said Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), an original co-sponsor of the bill. “STEM training provides for a high-quality workforce and a well-informed public, and this critical legislation addresses the unique challenges that many women and minority populations face. Closing the opportunity gap will help ensure the future success of our nation.”
Minorities are drastically unrepresented in STEM fields, accounting for only three out of 10 professionals. Not only are the number of women and minorities in STEM fields low, but their numbers are decreasing. The number of engineering bachelor’s degrees awarded to African-American women has steadily declined since the late 1990s. Additionally, students from economically disadvantaged communities struggle to access STEM opportunities, with the vast majority of federal resources channeled into higher education institutions where these populations are significantly underrepresented.
The STEM Gateways Act would provide funding through the U.S. Department of Education to help schools implement rigorous STEM academics, with a focus on reaching underrepresented groups.
Selected elementary and secondary schools in partnership with community colleges, non-profits, and other partner organizations would be able to use federal funding to support STEM, classroom activities, extra-curricular and after-school learning, summer programs, student tutoring and mentoring, and professional development for educators. Such focused efforts on expanding STEM opportunities for girls, minorities and economically disadvantaged students will broaden and strengthen the pipeline of American STEM workers.