Oklahoma Republican Congressman Frank Lucas joined forces with Texas Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson in introducing a bill in the U.S. House to improve science, technology, engineering, math and computer science education in rural communities.
Lucas is the Ranking Republican on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee chaired by Rep. Johnson.
Their Rural STEM Education Research Act focuses on what they deem to be inequities faced by rural students that make it more difficult to access quality STEM education. Rural students often face shortages of science and math teachers and face high teacher turnover as well as getting access to computer-based learning technology.
“When rural students can’t access high-quality STEM education, they miss out on valuable opportunities and we lose bright minds that could be contributing to American industry and research,” said Rep. Lucas.
He called it an extensive problem that affects nearly 20% of the country’s students and hurts their ability to compete for higher-paying and faster-growing STEM jobs.
“This bill provides more support to rural schools, encourages place-based learning, and supports research into rural STEM educational challenges. Improving rural STEM education has been one of my top priorities since becoming Ranking Member of the Science Committee, and it’s never been more important than it is now with students and teachers working remotely during COVID-19,” explained Lucas.
“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted some of the challenges rural communities face when it comes to STEM education,” said Rep. Johnson. “This year, students across the nation have struggled to continue their studies with limited access to key resources like broadband internet, laboratory equipment, and in-person instruction.”
One part of the bill takes steps to address what is considered to be a key obstacle to rural STEM education which is reduced connectivity and the lack of broadband access. The bill, if made law would direct the National Institutes of Standards and Technology to establish a prize competition to stimulate innovations in technologies to deploy broadband connectivity to underserved rural communities.
Source: Lucas press release