Senator Hewitt Shuffles STEM Bill through the Education Committee

Louisiana State Senator Sharon Hewitt proposed SB225 on Thursday in the Senate Education Committee meeting. The bill focused on increasing the attention and promotion of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs in Louisiana.

The bill aimed to create a Louisiana STEM advisory council. They would coordinate and oversee the creation, delivery and promotion of STEM education programming, increase student interest and achievement in STEM areas, and align the programs with industry needs, said Hewitt.

Hewitt said that she was passionate about this bill because Louisiana is behind nationally in this area, yet has a great chance of being a go-to region for STEM. She said, “My vision for Louisiana is that we can become the state for industries in need of STEM talent. Just as certain industries go to silicon valley for talent, I want Louisiana to become where industries go for STEM talent.”

Hewitt gave many statistics such as the prediction that Louisiana will have an 18% growth in demand for STEM jobs in the next 10 years (compared to non-STEM careers which will only grow by about 13%).

In the last 10 years, male student interest in Louisiana has grown from 41% to 47% while female student interest has decreased from 16% to 13% said Hewitt. Not only are the gaps in STEM interest large, but the gaps in the number of students Louisiana graduates in each gender. The ratio of men to women of college graduates in a STEM career is 80 % to 20%.

Hewitt said in order to graduate more students in these fields, Louisiana must help them be STEM ready. The bill will create programs to not only gauge the interest of students, but to prepare them. The figure below illustrates how Louisiana is behind the percentages of the United States and of top performing states in the area such as Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Hewitt began her proposition with a short video about the effects of STEM programs, especially at an early age. The video showed school age children and students with robotics, which played into the senator’s reminder about Robotics Day which will be held at the capitol on May 25.

The video, which was narrated by a seven year old, illustrated Hewitt’s first point of why Louisiana needs STEM programming – that interest in STEM must begin at an elementary level. Her second point was that encouraging women in STEM careers will close the gender pay gap.

Senate Education Committee Chairman, Senator Morrish closed the discussion by reading out the names of the numerous green support cards that were turned in. Among the names was Erin Bendily, a Southeastern graduate representing BESE and the Louisiana Department of Education.

Bendily said, “STEM education is so important to prepare our students for postsecondary education and the workplace, especially given Louisiana’s economy and workforce demands. Students who graduate with skills in STEM disciplines are poised to excel throughout their continued education and ultimately in great careers.”

To watch the committee meeting in it’s entirety, click here.



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