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Steve Knight: Right stuff for California

Posted: August 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Undoubtedly, we’ve all heard it said before: the future is STEM.

Constantly growing, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields hold the world’s future, California’s future, and the future of our young students as they prepare to pursue their passions in college or enter the workforce as enthusiastic employees at California businesses both large and small.

The future of California’s partnership with STEM is bright. Or it can be.

But alarmingly, California students continually score near the bottom among their peers on national tests — and these national peers perform at mediocre levels in international comparisons.

The fact is California is doing a less-than-satisfactory job of preparing students to participate in the competitive, technology-centric global marketplace.

We’re experiencing a dire workforce cavity: high demand of STEM-field jobs without qualified domestic workers.

Along with educators and parents, the California Legislature needs to prioritize STEM education at every grade level.

Incentivizing private corporations to assist with STEM education programs is a wise use of California’s unparalleled industry resources.

Increasing availability and hours of STEM instruction would significantly affect the number of interested students, passionate graduates, and qualified workers for high-demand — and typically high-paying — STEM careers in the future.

Those passionate workers may, in turn, help inspire the next generation of STEM experts.

California voters recently approved a massive tax hike to increase education funding; however, the California Democrats have focused education dollars on poor and English Learner pupils, decreasing the dropout rate, and closing the achievement gap.

These changes do not go far enough to ensure that California-educated students will be able to secure lucrative careers. We must not forget where the future lies.

In my district, Microsoft’s Technology Education And Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program is one example of how a corporation can educate not only students, but teachers as well, within an existing public school.

We have been able to implement TEALS in five High Desert high schools this coming school year, including Golden Valley High School, Valencia High School and Canyon High School in the William S. Hart Union High School District; and Antelope Valley High School and Lancaster High School in the Antelope Valley Union School District.

I’m hopeful that I will be successful in inspiring more schools to join in the years to come. I am also hopeful that our Legislature can collaborate with industry, education, and STEM experts to inspire and employ more programs like TEALS.

TEALS addresses California’s workforce gap by creating excitement about computer science in high school students who will then mature to be qualified professionals who will fuel a growing industry.

Young minds are naturally curious; it’s our job to capitalize on that and provide them with proper tools for the future.

Passionate curiosity is what turns childhood dreams into realities, whether it’s flying to the moon or exponentially amplifying the computing power of a cell phone.

Harnessing young people’s innate interest in STEM fields, particularly computer science, is what will produce a new generation of ready-to-work coders, scientists, astronauts and researchers — all highly desired niches.

The California Legislature must come together and not only hope to spur a generation of young dreamers to evolve into doers, but must take action to ensure that these capable young minds are given the proper resources to be a key component of STEM’s bright future.

Senator Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley, represents the 21st Senate District in the California Legislature, which includes communities throughout the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys.


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