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Hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee - "Raising the Bar: Reviewing STEM Education in America"


Location: Washington, DC

Good morning. I'd like to start by thanking our panel of witnesses for joining us today. This hearing provides a valuable opportunity to discuss the state of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education in America.

In the past 10 years the number of STEM jobs grew three times faster than non-STEM jobs. In the next 10 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the United States to create 9.2 million jobs in STEM fields.

STEM occupations offer the kind of competitive wages this nation needs to drive our economic recovery. On average, STEM workers earn 26 percent more than their counterparts.

Unfortunately, the supply of workers with the skills needed to fill these in-demand positions has fallen short. Many job creators and economists have raised concerns that schools are not adequately preparing students for careers in high-demand STEM fields.

Recent studies have ranked the math and science achievement of American students far behind students of other developed nations. According to a 2010 National Academies Report, the United States ranks 27th among developed countries in the proportion of college students earning bachelor's degrees in science or engineering.

The federal government has taken an active role in improving STEM education, but recent reports have shown that taxpayers' multi-billion dollar investments are failing to produce results. The Government Accountability Office found in Fiscal Year 2010, 209 programs operated by 13 different agencies invested over $3 billion in efforts designed to increase knowledge of STEM fields and attainment of STEM degrees.

GAO further found that 83 percent of the programs identified overlap with at least one other program, and many of the programs lacked any sort of strategic plan or accountability standards.

In 2010 the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology found STEM education programs across several agencies lacked a coherent vision or careful oversight of goals and outcomes.

These findings are not entirely surprising. Too often we see taxpayer dollars invested in efforts to tackle our critical issues, but we rarely see a return on this investment. Instead our problems are exacerbated by a growing maze of bureaucratic programs that have no clear strategy or vision.

For this reason, before we jump to simply create new federal initiatives, we must first evaluate our existing STEM education programs. We must ensure our federal resources are used more efficiently to give students the opportunity to embrace and succeed in STEM subjects.

America is renowned for innovation. Throughout our history, we have encouraged the kind of visionary thinking that led Orville and Wilbur Wright to build and successfully fly the world's first airplane, Dr. Jonas Salk to discover the vaccine for polio, and Steve Jobs to change the world right from his parents' garage with the first personal computer.

These remarkable inventions have improved our daily lives and helped this country rise to greatness. In order for the United States to continue to be a global leader, we must find better ways to help our children pursue the jobs of the future.

My state of Indiana, and specifically the 4th District, which I represent, is home to one of the finest institutions for preparing American leaders in the STEM fields -- Purdue University. Purdue is known as the "cradle of astronauts," because 23 alumni have served as astronauts. These include Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, the first and last astronauts to walk on the moon. And so as we discuss how to prepare the children of tomorrow for STEM jobs, members of the Purdue community and folks all across Indiana will be paying particularly close attention.

I look forward to learning how we can enhance our STEM education efforts and discussing opportunities for improvement. I will now yield to my distinguished colleague, Carolyn McCarthy, for her opening remarks.

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