Posted In: Illinois, Kids Not Cuts, Massachusetts

Educators say we need investment in STEM, not cuts

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by Colleen Flaherty

Alison Becker is dedicated to providing quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for public schools. She left a high-paying job in biotechnology to teach at a high school in Massachusetts.

“I wanted to teach the importance of a solid science and math education to the next generation. It is so important that our country stay on top of this,” said Becker.

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Unfortunately, it’s becoming more difficult to attract and keep quality teachers in these important subjects. We’re currently losing 25,000 math and science teachers each year, and if Congress doesn’t reverse reckless, across-the-board sequester cuts, $3 billion will be lost from federal education spending. This could devastate math and science programs that rely on STEM grants, quality teachers and adequate supplies.

“It is embarrassing how far behind we are compared to other developed nations,” said Becker. “This is the wave of the future and we can’t let this slide.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, STEM accounts for 50 percent of U.S. economic growth, yet there aren’t enough U.S. workers to fill jobs in these growing fields, which will add 2.7 million jobs by 2018.

However, public education in the U.S. is not preparing students for careers that are essential for global competitiveness. According to a recent report by Microsoft, only 2,100 public and private high schools offered Advanced Placement in computer science in 2011, down 25 percent in just five years.

“We cannot cut public education funding that allows experienced scientists the opportunity to influence the next generation of college graduates. We need to think about the future.”

For 20 years, Scott Michael has been a middle school math and science teacher in Illinois. He has seen firsthand how budget cuts have affected the quality of education his students receive.

“In my school, cuts continually eat away at our science supplies budget, resulting in a deleterious erosion of classroom lab exercises and activities,” said Michael.

According to Michael, providing desperately-needed quality math and science education is becoming difficult when public schools are having trouble providing basic needs for students.

Special education, Title 1, and teacher aides are but a few of the essential cogs in the education system that are being dropped because of cuts in funding. I have special needs students in my classroom who are being deprived of the extra attention they cannot survive without. I am not a special education teacher, yet I am expected to prepare multiple lessons for certain classes with mainstreamed students who are drowning because they are incapable of dealing with their current situations.

Even with cuts and decline, Michael is still fighting for his students and implores Congress to do the same.

“Despite my complaints, I feel privileged to be able to walk into a classroom every day and try to educate our children to the best of my ability. I just wish our elected officials would place the same emphasis on education while they are in office that they claim to have while campaigning.”

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