Houses Passes Rural STEM Education Act
Last Wednesday, the House voted to pass H.S. 4979, the Rural STEM Education Act this week under suspension of the rules. The bill would authorize $120 million to the National Science Foundation (NSF) from fiscal year 2021-2025 to support STEM education in rural communities. The bipartisan bill would achieve this by giving teachers and students in rural communities the tools they need to overcome challenges that limit their access to quality STEM learning. One major component of the bill is that it will seek to provide greater access to broadband internet in rural communities lacking access.
The bill was introduced by House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), among others. Ranking Member Lucas has promoted the bill, saying it will give rural students “very opportunity to be competitive in this job market and contribute STEM skills both to their communities and to the national workforce.” Similarly, Chairwomen Johnson has said that “the Rural STEM Education Act will advance research and development to help close these gaps and ensure rural students have equitable access to high-paying STEM careers.”
Beyond being a STEM education bill, the legislation seeks to lay proper groundwork for the U.S. workforce of the future by equipping all American students with the tools they need to be able to thrive and compete in STEM careers. The bill directs NSF to enter into an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences under which the National Academy agrees to evaluate aspects of STEM education and workforce development in rural areas. Also of particular interest to the ASME community, the bill expands certain outreach activities of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program and MEP Centers to include secondary schools.