Washington Voters Want STEM in Schools

Pending legislation would bring science, technology, engineering and math to students

A poll conducted recently indicates that an overwhelming majority of Washington voters support more science, technology, engineering and math education in the K–12 public schools.

The survey, commissioned by Washington STEM, found 94 percent of Washington voters believe that every student in K–12 public education should have access to a high-quality STEM education. However, only 45 percent believe the schools are delivering that education.

Patrick D'Amelio, CEO of Washington STEM, said this poll shows that voters want and expect the state's leaders to do more when it comes to educating Washington's students in the STEM fields.

Washington STEM is a nonprofit organization that advocates for more education in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Its board is urging lawmakers to support four legislative bills that have been introduced in Olympia.

House Bill 1813 and Senate Bill 5478 specifically target improvements in STEM education.

The first, HB 1813, would create a Computer Science and Education Grant program for educator training and technology. The bill requires the adoption of computer science learning standards and a teaching endorsement.

A bill introduced in the Senate, SB 5478, would provide funds to assist school districts in modernizing the facilities that support STEM learning. This bill recognizes that in order to stay current with technology, buildings will need to be updated more frequently than the standard 30 to 50 years.

Another house bill, HB 1345, would adopt a statewide definition of teacher professional development. Washington STEM believes the passage of this bill will mean the $300 million spent on professional development for teachers will be better spent, resulting in a bigger impact on student outcomes.

The Early Start Act, which is HB 1491, would enhance the quality of the state's preschool and childcare programs. Seventy-one percent of voters believe early learning programs should be improved for children who are younger than kindergarten.

Dr. Susan Enfield, superintendent of Highline Public Schools, believes that early learning opportunities are "game-changers" for students.

"Giving our kids a strong start increases the chance they will be prepared to succeed in school, especially in math and science," said Enfield, who also sits on the board of Washington STEM.

Poll findings:

  • 91 percent agree that K–12 teachers should have more computer science training and a computer science curriculum.
  • 90 percent support expanding the number of K–12 schools that offer computer science classes.
  • 85 percent believe Washington's state colleges and universities should be graduating more Washington students with computer science degrees.
  • 80 percent support funding specific improvements to STEM facilities, technology and classroom supplies in schools that demonstrate a need for such items.
  • 92 percent agree that the next generation of Washington adults will have more opportunities if they have strong STEM skills.
  • 86 percent agree STEM education is needed to ensure students are given the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
  • 81 percent believe an increased focus on STEM will improve the state's economy.
  • 86 percent of voters support increasing the number college students graduating with a degree in a STEM field.
  • 79 percent support the use of the Next Generation Science Standards within the state's K-12 public schools.
  • 68 percent support the use of Common Core State Standards within the state's K-12 public schools.

"Lawmakers are at a pivotal moment of shaping our education system for decades to come," said Caroline King, chief policy officer of Washington STEM. "Washington voters overwhelming support putting STEM front and center from cradle to career."

The poll was conducted between Jan. 31 and Feb. 4, 2015, by Strategies 360. It included 647 registered Washington voters and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

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