Early exposure to STEM education benefits children, economy

I’ve introduced legislation, the Project Ready STEM Act of 2013, to help ensure access to STEM for urban minority youth. This measure expands community based programs that increase exposure to hands-on science activities. Numerous evaluations found that quality STEM after-school programs such as those conducted by the Urban League, increase the likelihood of graduation and pursuit of a STEM career.  

Other studies show children exposed to STEM educational resources at a very young age perform better in science and math than students who are not. Students who are taught by experienced and well trained math and science teachers have also been shown to outperform students with less experienced teachers. We must maintain dedicated funding for STEM education at the federal level and insist on assessment of programs at key grade levels. These two initiatives were rejected in the House passed budget in 2012.

We not only shortchange our nation by failing to improve STEM education, we also deprive our young people of reaching their potential. That is the greatest loss. A formerly homeless student in my district in Ohio made headlines last spring when he was accepted at Harvard to fulfill his dream of becoming an engineer. While he is unquestionably a brilliant young man, I knew that he was given the opportunity to succeed due to his exposure to a STEM education. This student attended MC2, the STEM high school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He was among the 95 percent of students from that school to graduate, compared to an average graduation rate in the school district of 63 percent. 

Investing in STEM education is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Let’s commit to expanding it as if our nation’s security and our children’s futures depend on it. As a matter of fact, they do.

Fudge represents the 11th Congressional District of Ohio and is the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. She sits on the House Agriculture and the Education and the Workforce Committees.