OLYMPIA- Gov. Inslee is endorsing bill 1872, which concerns science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in the classroom. The bill will soon be put to a vote in the state Senate.
The bill would implement clearer definitions and expectations for Washington students’ STEM literacy. A yearly STEM “report card” would keep track of the program’s progress in schools and projected STEM job openings in Washington State.
41st District Representative Marcie Maxwell is the bill’s prime sponsor, and has worked closely with Gov. Inslee on its development.
“Washington is number one in the types of jobs that require good STEM skills- in technology, in aerospace, and so forth,” says Maxwell. “We need to prepare our students so they are the ones prepared to take those jobs.”
Cleveland High School in the Seattle district has had a STEM-based project learning program since 2010. Principal of the School of Engineering and Design, Eddie Reed, is pleased with the changes their STEM program has brought to the school, but says funding has been an issue.
Reed says when the program first came to Cleveland, “we weren’t getting much traction at the state or federal level in terms of funding.”
Original funding for Cleveland’s program came from community partners and non-profits. Washington STEM, a nonprofit launched in 2011, has given over $20,000 to Cleveland for specific projects. Reed emphasizes the importance of contacts in the community.
“STEM requires and attracts community partners, because one of the features of a STEM-based project learning program is that students… have an opportunity to apply what they’re learning out in the so-called “real world”. That includes not just simply going to sites but also have professionals come in and share their expertise and share their evaluation with student projects.”
In addition to an overall stronger emphasis on the STEM subjects, the bill proposes a third science credit requirement, beginning with the class of 2018. All the additional classes, teachers, supplies, and outside resources mean more funding from the state. Washington state legislators and educators alike hope to expand STEM-focused education throughout the state.
“It’s not just about particular schools that are known as STEM schools,” explains Maxwell, “It’s about STEM education integrating into every learning situation, every classroom, and in parenting.”
The bill’s funding is currently being adjusted in appropriations. Readers can visit Washington STEM’s overview and online investment strategy by clicking their map of investments below.
After funding has been set, the bill must overcome one more hurdle. The republican minority in the State House did not pass the bill, and Washington’s split legislature means it might be facing an uphill battle in the Senate. Representative Maxwell doesn’t have any concerns about the bill’s fate.
“I hope that people honor the priorities of our governor, and really the priorities of our state.” This is Gov. Inslee’s first piece of education legislation since he took office.
“We need to fund education,” says Maxwell, “Investments in education are certainly about ensuring a great future for Washington.”
According to many, that great future is achieved through STEM-based education.