This year, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) introduced the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act legislation to provide funding for school districts across the country to support STEM education for girls, students of color, LGBTQ students, and students with disabilities. With the United States facing a projected shortage of approximately 1 million STEM professionals by 2025, Harris is committed to increasing opportunities for women and minorities to secure these high wage, stable jobs.
“When we have more women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, and people with disabilities in STEM jobs, we get better results,” said Harris. “Preparing our nation’s students for the jobs of the 21st century starts in the classroom, and we must ensure that the benefits of that education are shared equally with those who are currently underrepresented in STEM professions.”
Specifically, the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act would authorize a $40 million competitive grant program for school districts to improve participation in STEM education. Examples of qualifying activities include:
- Providing tutoring and mentoring programs in STEM subjects
- Providing after school and summer activities designed to encourage interest and skill-building in STEM subjects
- Providing subsidies to minimize the costs of STEM-related educational materials, equipment, field trips, internships, and work experiences
- Educating parents about the opportunities and advantages of STEM careers
- Providing professional development services to teachers, principals, and other personnel aimed at reduced racial and gender bias
Companion legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH).
Supporters of the legislation include American Federation of Teachers, Association of California School Administrators, CSforAll, Girl Scouts, Girls Who Code, and Hispanic Heritage Foundation.
Recently, Senator Harris introduced legislation to combat sexual harassment in STEM following a landmark report which found that sexual harassment is pervasive in institutions of high education and contributes to loss of highly talented, highly trained individuals in the STEM workforce.