Gov. Bill Haslam Monday morning touted the state’s push for an increased focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education as a key step toward bringing more jobs to Tennessee.
The governor was at Stratford STEM Magnet High School to announce nearly $5 million in grants for three new STEM schools in Hamilton, Putnam and Sullivan counties. The grants will go to one existing school and two new schools, appropriating existing buildings.
“If we’re going to be the best location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, the root of that is providing the trained workforce to do that,” Haslam said.
“STEM Academies are one of the key steps in making that happen,” he added.
Funds from the grants go toward equipment and supplies related to STEM subjects, as well as curriculum design and professional development and training for teachers.
Along with the STEM schools come hubs, which each consist of a public-private partnership between school districts and businesses and non-profit organizations to support the program in the area. STEM grants are funded through the state’s Race to the Top grant.
In 2010, Tennessee was awarded $501 million in federal tax dollars as a part of the Obama administration’s nationwide competition. The money has been used for a number of education initiatives on the state and local level.
State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman cited Tennessee’s lagging proficiency levels in subjects like reading and math, but described the STEM program as a chance to do more than just improve those numbers.
“Creating these hubs all across the state is the chance to spread excellence,” he said. “It’s the chance to say, we’re not just attempting to build stronger baseline skills, we’re attempting to create hubs of excellence and spread those kinds of best practices so that our kids truly can excel at a high level relative to kids all across the country.”