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STEM legislation hits on key economic trends

STEM Missouri legislation

Supporting STEM education is in students’ and states’ best interests, but closing the gaps within STEM education would create the most impact.

A Missouri special session, called by Gov. Mike Parson, sent House Bill 3, which creates the “STEM Career Awareness Program,” to the governor’s desk to increase Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education among the state’s middle school students.

“Missouri is joining a growing number of states that recognize the importance of STEM education to their prosperity,” said Jeremy Anderson, president of Education Commission of the States (ECS). “By aiming to raise young people’s awareness of STEM careers and offer them better opportunities to master computer science, the legislation addresses key economic trends in the state.”

$34.00 per hour

The median STEM job in Missouri pays almost twice the median wage for non-STEM jobs.

Source: Vital Signs

According to Vital Signs data provided by ECS, the median STEM job in Missouri pays more than $34 per hour, almost twice the median wage for non-STEM jobs. In addition, STEM and computer science jobs are projected to grow 9 percent between 2017 and 2027, more than double the four percent growth rate for all jobs.

“Legislation like Missouri SB 3 can boost young people’s prospects while promoting states’ long-term competitiveness,” Anderson said. Half of all STEM jobs in America don’t require a four-year degree and pay an average of $53,000, which is 10 percent higher than non-STEM jobs with similar education requirements, according to data provided by ECS.

KC STEM Alliance, a collaborative network of educators, businesses, and related organizations, has been creating a foundation for innovation in the Kansas City region since 2011. The nonprofit organization works to support solid and equitable STEM education for all students to create job-ready candidates for local employers.

“KC STEM Alliance has seen a strong commitment from the districts, charters, and parochial schools in the Kansas City region to strengthen and improve access to quality STEM education, especially computer science offerings beginning as early as pre-K,” said Martha McCabe, executive director of KC STEM Alliance.

“We need to continue to have support from our state legislators to continue to grow STEM progress, and welcome the recently passed bill as a potential support of more teacher professional development,” McCabe said.

In Missouri, only 36 percent of eighth graders have a science teacher who has an undergraduate major in science, according to ECS data. Teachers across the state, not just in the most well-to-do schools, lack support for STEM professional development – a problem reflected across the country.

If the ability to increase capacity of STEM teachers is only afforded by the wealthiest districts, equity in STEM education and career-awareness is also affected. ECS Vital Signs research reports that, together, females and minorities make up more than half of Missouri’s population, yet they are much less likely to earn STEM degrees or become STEM professionals. In 2015, Missouri women earned 778 degrees or certificates, compared to the 2,846 earned by men, and underrepresented minorities in Missouri earned 9 percent of the computing degrees and certificates.

Missouri’s creation of a STEM Career Awareness Program is a good start, but, as with most states across the country, there is still work to be done to close the gaps within STEM education.