Today, the President announced a $1 billion initiative to boost science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM”) education in the country. His plan calls for the creation of the Master Teacher Corps, which aims to hire highly qualified teachers to prepare today’s students for the 21st century economy.
If implemented, the plan would hire 2,500 teachers across the country now, and grow to 10,000 teachers during the next four years. The selection process for the new batch of teachers won’t be easy – the Obama Administration has described it as “highly competitive” and “rigorous.” In exchange for making a multi-year commitment to the program, participating teachers would receive an annual stipend of $20,000 addition to their base salary, in the hopes that the profession will be competitive with other STEM professions. Finally, the Administration has made clear that the new hires would also be depended on to serve as community leaders, whether that be in the classroom, continuing their own education, sharing best practices with other educators, or mentoring outside of the classroom.
The paucity of STEM degrees has long been on the tech sector’s radar, so the President’s announcement is welcome news. While some in Congress have already expressed concerns about the price tag, it should, at a minimum, be viewed as a starting point, as well as a vital investment in the long-term vitality of our economy. Our leaders – in the White House and in Congress – must work together to modernize our education system. America’s overseas competitors are finding ways to boost their own economies and innovation potential through STEM education; it’s time for our candidates and policy makers to step up to the plate and find some solutions.