SHAHEEN: SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION INTEGRAL TO ECONOMIC GROWTH
The Senator delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor.April 06, 2011
As prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, as Congress and the Obama administration grapples with how to responsibly address our long-term deficit, we need to remember why it is so important to get on a path to balanced budgets. We need to address the long-term deficit because it is a threat to America’s future prosperity. It’s about economic growth and jobs. That’s why the deficit matters. The deficit is not just some math problem where it’s solved if the numbers add up right. The choices we make - which spending programs we cut, which tax expenditures we eliminate, where we continue to boost investment - matter.
The overarching challenge facing our country is how we keep our economy competitive.
We can't compete with India and China for low-wage manufacturing jobs. That is not our future.
America’s future is in continuing to be the global leader in science and technology. America makes the best, most innovative products and services, and that ingenuity and excellence is our chief economic strength as a nation.
But we are in danger of losing that edge. Science, technology, engineering and math – what we call the STEM fields – are the skills that drive innovation.
And jobs in the STEM fields are expected to be the fastest-growing occupations of the next decade. However, not enough students in our country are pursuing an education in STEM subjects to keep up with the increased demand.
For those students that do pursue education in STEM fields, they are being outperformed by international competitors. Studies show that by the end of eighth grade, students in the U.S. are two years behind their international peers in math. American students rank 21st in science and 25th in math among industrialized countries. In addition, the U.S. has produced a declining number of Ph.Ds in science and engineering compared to the European Union and China over the past three decades. It is clear that to remain competitive internationally, we must encourage and strengthen the supply of STEM-trained graduates.
That’s why this week Leader Reid and Senators Klobuchar, Kerry, Begich, Franken, Coons and I introduced legislation, the Innovation Inspiration School Grant program, which will bolster our nation’s ability to compete in the global economy.
My legislation will provide new incentives for our schools to think outside the box and embrace extracurricular and non-traditional STEM education programs. It establishes a competitive grant program that will encourage schools to partner with the private sector, both for financial support and to provide mentors who can serve as guides and role models to students.
I am proud that New Hampshire is the home to the FIRST Robotics program. For over a decade, teams of students have been designing robots to compete against one another in regional, then national, competitions. On Monday we hosted FIRST teams from Maryland and Virginia who demonstrated in the Dirksen building how the robots they designed and built actually work. It is these kinds of non-traditional STEM programs that make a difference in the students’ lives and inspire them to continue in STEM careers or postsecondary education.
In fact, research shows that 99 percent of students who participate in FIRST Robotics graduate high school and almost 90 percent go on to college. And once in college, these students are nearly seven times more likely to major in engineering and twice as likely to major in computer science. They are also significantly more likely to attain a post graduate degree. The data speaks for itself: investments in these sorts of programs matter and make a difference.
I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation that will inspire our students to become scientists, engineers, computer programmers and mathematicians. Our country’s economic future depends on it.
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