Announced in June of this year, the committee was tasked with looking at ways to increase participation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) by females and other minorities underrepresented in that area. Another area of focus was the benefits of STEM careers to the state’s economy.
Recommendations include the General Assembly facilitating “more STEM awareness in public education by establishing the Increasing Engagement in STEM Program and appropriating one million dollars for the Program.”
The report also proposes increasing computer science education in public schools across the state. The committee recommends that the legislature encourage more computer courses by offering state-level stipends for educators who participate in professional development for computer science and increasing salaries for educators who teach STEM courses.
The committee found over 800 public school teachers have been trained to teach computer science and over 91 percent of districts already offer a computer science course. Additionally, while 63 percent of the student population had access to such a course, only 47 percent of individual schools offer a computer science class.
In its recommendations, the committee also addressed STEM in higher education and encouraged the UNC Board of Governors to study and report back to lawmakers on possibly making computer science a minimum course requirement for admission as an undergraduate student.
Two draft bills were included in the committee’s report, one for a STEM grant program and another for the UNC System to report on the feasibility of a Computer Science credit.
The first draft bill, Increasing Engagement in STEM Grant Program, would have the state superintendent establish a grant program for districts to “engage in experiential science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs.”
The grant program would run during the 2023-2025 fiscal biennium with districts applying on or before Oct. 15, 2023. Recipients would be selected by April of the following year. Appropriations to fund the grant program would include one million in nonrecurring funds for 2023-2024. Any unused funds would revert at the end of the 2023-2024 fiscal year but remain available until the end of the 2024-2025 fiscal year.
The other draft bill, currently titled UNC Report on Computer Science Credit, would require the UNC Board of Governors to examine the pros and cons of incorporating computer science into the course requirements for admissions. The bill would direct the board to report back to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by Mar. 1, 2023.
The committee also recommended an appropriation of five million dollars to existing programs and grants that have already shown success in “providing the skills, experiences, and critical enrichment opportunities necessary to build a strong, qualified STEM workforce pipeline in the state.”