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Letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on STEM Education and Immigration

May 08, 2013

Dear Senator: 

On behalf of the more than three million members of the National Education Association (NEA) we wish to offer the following views in connection with the May 8 hearing, “The Role of Immigrants in America’s Innovation Economy."  

The NEA applauds the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” who crafted the most commonsense immigration legislation in years.  In light of the May 8 hearing, we wish to show our support for the bill’s commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education. If the United States is to hold a competitive edge in a rapidly changing global environment, strengthening the STEM workforce is essential. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, STEM jobs will increase at a rate of 17 percent a year while non-STEM jobs will increase by 14 percent over the period 2010-20. Moreover, STEM occupations pay better wages, so individuals and families benefit directly—the average annual wage for all STEM occupations is nearly $78,000. Mean wages for 93 of the 97 STEM occupations equal or exceed the U.S. average (currently, about $43,000).   

It is essential that all students, no matter their gender, race or economic background, are provided the same access to quality STEM education and jobs. That access begins in America's classrooms where equity in education can close achievement gaps and drive success. Bolstering STEM education combines the principles of social justice and economic competitiveness, while bringing together different community interests to work towards a shared goal: student success. 

Focus must also be placed on the support we provide our STEM educators.  Access to equipment and professional development opportunities will ensure STEM educators are able to improve their knowledge and skillsets in the constantly changing science, technology, engineering and math environment.   The freedom to engage students in enrichment activities like field trips and lab work are keys to success for educators as well as critical for student engagement.  

Educators and their unions, parents, business and community leaders, and elected officials -- we all have important roles in helping to transform public education and to ensure that all our students have the foundation necessary to compete in the worldwide economy.  

We thank you for your leadership on this important issue.  

Sincerely, 

Mary Kusler
Director of Government Relations