US Commits $3.1 Billion for STEM Education Funding
What does this commitment to STEM Education funding mean for students? If you’re an educator or a well informed citizen, you’ve probably heard the news about the Obama Administration committing a significant amount of money…$3.1 billion dollars in fact… to improving STEM education.
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Here are six reasons to get excited about this announcement:
#1 Discussion about STEM at the highest levels
Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, it would be difficult to argue that the current administration, or our government as a whole, have not given STEM education the attention it deserves. Far from it, this announcement can be taken as a rededication to this cause. This reinforces the fact that STEM education is an area of vital importance to our national interests for a number of reasons. One reason is economic: A large percentage of the high growth, high paying jobs available today, and for the foreseeable future, are STEM focused, and require a STEM literate workforce. Further, our economic success as a country is tied intimately to our level of technological innovation. Everyone should know the answer to the question "What is STEM?". Of course there are many other reasons, but the bottom line is that there seems to be a deep seated understanding that STEM isn’t about ‘special interests’ –it’s about our collective interests and all students should be exposed to the possiblities a STEM focused education presents.
#2 The Creation of STEM Innovation Networks
$150 million is being directed specifically to establishing partnerships between school districts and universities/businesses/museums and others involved in high demand Science, Technology, Mathematics and Engineering fields.
#3 100,000 STEM Teachers in 10 years
The stated goal of preparing 100,000 STEM educators with strong teaching skills and deep content knowledge over next 10 years was originally addressed in the President’s 2011 State of the Union address. Since then, the private sector has begun providing support, and this new budget will specifically allocate $80 million in the coming year to preparing such teachers for take their place in school districts of high need.
This funding for STEM education will also fund a pilot program designed to gather the cream of America’s science and math teachers who have demonstrated to be the most effective at improving education in their own districts, and share their practices so they can be replicated in other classrooms across the country.
#5 to Redesign of High Schools to Focus on STEM Learning
From these funds, $300 million will be put towards a competition whose goal is to revise and re-think the way high school education is approached. This includes placing an emphasis on real-world learning, project based learning and aiming to provide challenging and engaging experiences that properly prepare students for pursuing STEM fields of study in college and related career paths.
#6 Emphasis on Increasing Informal STEM Education
A portion of funds from this budget are also being directed to the Smithsonian Institution, who will work in conjunction with other science and technology based governmental agencies, such as NASA and the Department of Agriculture to create materials, curricula and online resources that will specifically support the STEM concepts being addressed in classrooms. Another $48 million will be provided to the National Science Foundation (NSF) with the explicit goal of finding the most effective and innovative methods for engaging students in STEM focused pursuits outside of the classroom.
To be fair, some have criticized this $3.1 billion commitment for the fact that it gathers it’s funding for many of these programs by slicing the funding for others, but that is of course the way things must work when limited economic resources are available. It also consolidates, restructures, and eliminates a large number of STEM programs previously being conducted by a wide range of agencies, and instead puts the governments STEM efforts essentially under the control of the Department of Education, and the National Science Foundation. For example, the redirection of funds to the Department of Education will involve the consolidation of 114 individual STEM programs across 11 agencies. Meanwhile, the Departments of Defense, Energy, the EPA and the National Regulatory Commission will see a greater reduction of their STEM budget, as 226 agency programs are restructured down to 112. The result is that the Department of Education will now be in charge of federally funded STEM programs aimed at elementary and secondary students, and the NSF will focus on undergraduate and graduate STEM programs.
Read the April 10, 2013 news announcement from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
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