A bipartisan group of senators has reintroduced the Rural STEM Education Act, which would provide Federal support for STEM training in rural schools and instruct the director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide grants to support training for rural STEM teachers.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., and co-sponsored by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and John Cornyn, R-Tex. The bill would also require the NSF director to establish a working group that would report to Congress with a focus on finding opportunities to improve broadband and understanding research challenges.
“The coronavirus pandemic has underscored the need to address the lack of resources available to our rural communities, especially when it comes to technology,” Sen. Rosen said in a press release. “I’m proud to introduce this important piece of bipartisan legislation that will support research and development activities to better understand how to overcome the challenges rural communities are facing in providing quality STEM education programs. I will continue working on forward-thinking legislation to give our students the education and training they need to succeed in a 21st-century economy.”
According to a 2019 study by the Rural School and Community Trust, 9.3 million students currently go to rural schools. That amounts to approximately one-in-five kids. This bill would work to help those students gain more access to improved STEM education by directing the NSF to also conduct research on the barriers rural students face in STEM education, as well as develop partnerships between rural high schools and community colleges.
“As employment opportunities in STEM fields increase, it is critical that we provide rural schools the resources necessary to offer quality STEM education and prepare students for today’s workforce,” Sen. Wicker said in the same release. “I am glad to join my colleagues in leading this effort, and I look forward to seeing our bill advance.”
The bill also would require the NSF and the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate existing Federal programs for rural STEM education and suggest recommendations for improvement. And it would require the Secretary of Commerce to create a prize competition for innovative ideas on improving rural broadband deployment.