Gov. Jay Inslee and Rep. Marcie Maxwell (D-Renton) testified on Wednesday in support of a bill that would fund a framework for improving education in science, technology, engineering and math.
The pair testified before the House Education Committee in support of Maxwell's bill, HB 1872, that would put more focus — and money — behind improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in Washington state.
"STEM literacy really is about living, learning, and working in this 21st Century," Maxwell said during her committee testimony. "This bill will ensure Washington students are ready and best prepared for the jobs that we know we have right now."
Maxwell represents the 41st Legislative District, which represents parts of Sammamish, Issaquah, Renton, Bellevue, Beaux Arts Village, Newcastle and Mercer Island.
The legislation offers five initiatives:
- It defines Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Literacy;
- Establishes a STEM Education Innovation Alliance to advise the Governor, create a STEM Framework for Action and Accountability (Framework), and develop a STEM Report Card;
- Directs the Office of Financial Management to contract with a nonprofit organization to develop evidence-based approaches for increasing learning opportunities in the STEM, if funds are appropriated;
- Directs the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to disseminate resources to increase interdisciplinary instruction and project-based learning; and
- Requires the Washington Student Achievement Council and the Quality Education Council to align their strategic plans with the Framework.
A recent study estimated 30,000 Washington jobs will go unfilled in the next five years without increased investment in STEM education. Washington employers have said repeatedly that they will be importing talent from other states and countries to fill those positions, and a recent Seattle Times story says allies in Congress are willing to help them by doubling the number of H-1B visas currently allowed annually.
Last legislative session, Maxwell also sponsored HB 2159 and HB 2160 which were signed into law. The two bills created competitive aerospace and manufacturing grant programs and required STEM education to be a part of the Professional Educator Standards Board teacher certification process respectively.
A recent survey by Washington STEM, a STEM advocacy group, said 79 percent of respondents agreed that more companies will move to or expand to Washington if the state had a reputation for workers with great science and math skills. Nine out of ten agreed the next generation of Washingtonians will have more opportunities if they have strong STEM skills.