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May 18, 2021

Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) Floor Statement for H.R. 210, Rural STEM Education Research Act

I was proud to join Ranking Member Lucas in introducing his Rural STEM Education Research Act. Access to high-quality STEM education has too long been place-based. For students who grow up in rural areas of this country, even in states that boast some of the world’s best research universities, a STEM career may seem unattainable. Many rural students have never met a practicing scientist or engineer. Their teachers often struggle with limited resources for the STEM curriculum. It is unlikely that their schools have well equipped science laboratories that may provide hands-on experiences that are known to inspire scientific curiosity and a love of STEM at an early age. The nearest science museum may be too far for a field trip, if the district can even afford to transport them. And broadband access remains an urgent challenge.

Yet we know with certainty that talent for science has nothing to do with one where is born, any more than it has to do with the color of one’s skin or one’s gender. Our country is filled with smart young people from all backgrounds who may one day contribute to our science and innovation leadership. In fact, we need them to contribute to our science and innovation future if we are to continue to compete on the global stage and develop solutions to our most pressing challenges. But these young people must first see it as a possibility for themselves, and that starts with access to high-quality STEM education and hands-on research experiences in their local schools.

The Rural STEM Education Act provides for research and development to increase access to STEM education opportunities in rural schools and to provide teachers with the resources they need to teach more effectively. The bill also directs the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a prize competition to advance research and development of creative technologies for expanded broadband access. This bill further provides for assessments of Federal investments in rural STEM education to be conducted by the National Academies and the Government Accountability Office.

H.R. 210 is a good, bipartisan bill. I am pleased that the House passed it today along with a series of other bills focused on growing, diversifying, and strengthening our STEM workforce for the future. I look forward to working with Ranking Member Lucas and colleagues in both bodies to enact all of these bills.