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With a little help from Congress, we could soon expand STEM programs and see a positive shift in the way school staff considers race and gender in classrooms.
Presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris introduced the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act this year, which could drastically change the way we use grant money for science and technology training and programming. If passed, the law would put protocol in place that would reduce racial and gender bias in low-income communities, and implement more after-school STEM clubs.
Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH), introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, in hopes of fast tracking the bill and getting it passed in both chambers of congress. In addition to Harris, co-sponsors of the legislation include Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).
Lawmakers have been pushing for equal access to technology in American schools since the 1960s, but very few bills have actually seen the light of day. Could you imagine the dreams realized by the next generation, should such an act as the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act become law?
We’ve seen conservative policymakers withhold tech funding, education and progressive legislature of this magnitude, on the local and national level, for ages. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that we eradicate the social and institutional factors discouraging communities of color from getting started in the industry.
Grants like the one introduced by two Black women, Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Joy Beatty feel necessary in this day and age. This type of legislation is essential for maintaining our competitive nature amongst the other technologically-savvy societies of the world. We, as members of Black and Brown communities, can take initiative in the meantime by getting past the fear of not having institutional knowledge of STEM skills. Overcoming that mental roadblock, along with the passage of the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act, are pathways that would allow us to pry open the doors to the future of tech.
We should think of it as a full court press approach. Image the relief American mothers and families would feel if after-school programs were designed to economically and creatively advance the next generation, equipping them with strong science, math and technology skills.
Once trained, the youth are able to explore the breadth of opportunities a career in the field has to offer, and before you know it, we will see more founders, inventors and leaders from communities of color emerge. That could reduce crime for low-income communities, incite new levels of inventions and we’d be well on our way to closing the wealth gap in this country.
If repetition and knowledge together is the mother of skill, some form of the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act must be realized. All we need is a bigger push for leaders we place in power, whether as president or as members of Congress, to pass these types of bills and create real solutions for our communities.
Supporters of this legislation include American Federation of Teachers, Association of California School Administrators, CSforAll, Girl Scouts, Girls Who Code, Hispanic Heritage Foundation, NAACP, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National PTA, National Society of Black Engineers, Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Society of Women Engineers, and USC Race & Equity Center.