Legislation Assembly Democrats Troy Singleton, Connie Wagner, Benjie E. Wimberly, Celeste M. Riley and Marlene Caride sponsored to encourage student interest in fields of science, technology, education, engineering and mathematics was approved by the General Assembly on Monday. The legislation (A-2015) is one of the measures presented by the Assembly Democrats as part of a comprehensive legislative initiative to boost job creation and economic development throughout the state.
The bill would establish a four year “New Jersey Innovation Inspiration School Grant Pilot Program” and a fund within the Department of Education. Under the bill’s provisions, the pilot program would broaden student access and interest in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in order to advance United States competitiveness and innovation in these fields. A total of six one-time, up-front grants would be awarded to two districts in each region. Each district would have a period of up to four years to use each grant.
“Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and the future of our workforce,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “An essential part of job creation is preparation. Encouraging our students to excel in STEM fields prepares them for a future that is advancing rapidly in science, math, and technology. “
“Here in the U.S., there is an education gap among grade school and high school students in the subjects of science, technology, education, engineering and mathematics,” said Wagner (D- Bergen, Passaic). “This bill would help prepare more of our youth to seek careers in STEM fields through a specialized learning program/grant created to connect students, teachers and leaders in these fields.”
“Fourth grade students in this country are scoring high marks in these subjects as compared to their international counterparts,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). “My concern is the apparent diminishing interest and intent focus on science and math subject by these students as they reach the higher grades.”
“STEM fields are less popular amongst the students in this country. We can help raise interest and opportunity to explore these areas with quality programming and grant funding,” said Riley (D-Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem). “Every New Jersey student deserves the best education our state can provide and every opportunity to achieve excellence.”
“The bill would enhance existing science, technology and math education by giving the students practical knowledge on how these subjects can be applied in the real world,” said Caride (D-Bergen, Passaic). “More students interested in pursuing STEM fields will, in the long run, strengthen the country’s position as a global leader in science and technology.”
A 2011 report on STEM jobs by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce indicates New Jersey will demand a total of 248,250 STEM jobs by 2018, up from 223, 290 in 2008, and about 93% of the predicted jobs will require post secondary education and training. According to the National Science Board’s 2010 Science and Engineering Indicators, only 5% of American college graduates major in engineering; however, in Asia about 20% of all baccalaureate degrees are in engineering and in China, 33%.
The pilot program would award grants to support non-traditional STEM teaching methods for students in grades 9 through 12, participation of students in nonprofit STEM competitions, encouraging interest in STEM field careers, and collaboration among students, engineers, and professional mentors. The bill would further provide that in awarding grants the Commissioner of Education would identify and give priority to schools in low-performing schools and a school district which serves low-income students.
The bill was approved 49-26-2 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.