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Public Statements

Congressional Black Caucus

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas. Mr. Speaker, it has been over 60 years since the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education desegregated our schools. Yet an achievement and opportunity gap remains among our minority and low-income students.

As Members of Congress who represent communities of color, the purpose of today's special order is to highlight an economic and social crisis America faces if this problem is not confronted and significant measures are not taken. Particularly, we must focus our efforts on closing the gap in the STEM disciplines. As the First Female and First African American Ranking Member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, this is an issue that is very serious to me and has been one of the pillars of my legislative agenda in the United States Congress for over 20 years.

Ensuring minorities are proficient in STEM is more than just a question of equity. We have a vast, untapped pool of talent in America, and this pool is continuing to grow. It is estimated that, by 2050, 52 percent of the U.S. population will be from underrepresented minority groups. Our ``Nation's Report Card,'' by the National Assessments of Educational Progress, shows that students from underrepresented minorities are falling behind in math and science as early as 4th grade.

At the Post Secondary level, even though students from underrepresented minorities made up about 33 percent of the college age population in 2009, they only made up: 19 percent of students who received an undergraduate STEM degrees Less than 9 percent of students enrolled in science and engineering graduate programs, and; Barely 8 percent of students who received PhDs in STEM fields. Frankly, all of these numbers are much too low.

I also must underscore the important role that community colleges play in providing to STEM degrees for minority students. 50 percent of African Americans, 55 percent of Hispanics, and 64 percent of Native Americans who hold bachelor's or master's degrees in science or engineering attended a community college at some point. We cannot afford to ignore the role of community colleges.

We have to drastically increase the number of African American students from these groups receiving degrees in STEM disciplines, or we will undoubtedly relinquish our global leadership in innovation and job creation. We know school administrators, teachers, community leaders, public-private partnerships and parents all play a critical role in addressing this issue. No one person or organization can do it alone. We must all work together to leverage our respective strengths and resources to tackle this challenge.

For example, the corporate community was highly involved supporting a bill I co-authored, the America COMPETES Act. As many of you are aware, I recently introduced the STEM Opportunities Act of 2013 this March. The STEM Opportunities Act of 2013 will help address many of the challenges faced by women and underrepresented minorities pursuing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) research careers by:

Requiring the National Science Foundation (NSF) to collect more comprehensive demographic data on the recipients of federal research awards and on STEM faculty at U.S. universities (while protecting individuals' privacy); ,Promoting data-driven research on the participation and trajectories of women and underrepresented minorities in STEM so that policy makers can design more effective policies and practices to reduce barriers; And developing, through the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), consistent federal policies, such as no-cost extensions and flexibility in timing for the initiation of the award, for recipients of federal research awards who have caregiving responsibilities, including care for a newborn or newly adopted child and care for an immediate family member who is sick.

We're all in this together, and working together I know we can achieve great success.

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