Wicker proposes bill to improve STEM education in rural areas

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) on Dec. 8 sponsored a bipartisan bill that would support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and workforce development research focused on America’s rural areas.

Specifically, the Rural STEM Education Act, S. 4972, introduced by Sen. Wicker and cosponsor U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), would improve access and training in rural communities to STEM education. 

“As employment opportunities in STEM fields increase, it is critical that we provide rural schools the resources necessary to offer quality STEM education and prepare students for today’s workforce,” said Sen. Wicker, chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, where the bill has been referred for consideration.  

In fact, according to language in the bill, “rural areas represent one of the most promising, yet underutilized, opportunities for STEM education to impact workforce development and regional innovation, including agriculture.”

If enacted, S. 4972 would direct the U.S. Commerce Secretary to establish a prize competition to encourage innovative ideas to deploy broadband connectivity to rural communities, and require the National Science Foundation (NSF) director to establish a working group to address research challenges and opportunities for improving broadband access, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Wicker’s office.

Additionally, the NSF director and the National Academy of Sciences would be tasked with evaluating federal programming for rural STEM education and make improvement recommendations, according to the summary.

“I am glad to join my colleague Senator Rosen in leading this effort, and I look forward to seeing our bill advance,” Sen. Wicker said last week.