Lawmakers overview STEM activity throughout...

Posted at 4:35 PM, Jan 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-21 19:32:41-05
This year's Legislature is focusing on education and in that thread the topic of STEM - science, technology, engineering, and math - was part of several conversations Thursday.

Idaho is trailing behind most other states on STEM education. For example, it's the only state in the region without a high school science fair. However, the recently-created STEM Action Center is looking to turn things around.

The center gave  a presentation to a bi-partisan group of lawmakers Wednesday. It was the STEM Caucus, lawmakers committed to improve the teaching of hard sciences. Angela Hemingway, Director of the center briefed the group on where the state stands.

She showed the untapped potential in Idaho. Her research shows there more than $250 million dollars in wages waiting for qualified candidates. To fill that need, she's pushing for a $2 million computer science initiative.

"We could continue to keep those students in Idaho rather than have them leave our state and seek employment elsewhere," said Hemingway.

The center got a boost from Governor C. L. "Butch" Otter, who is asking lawmakers to give it a $10 million deposit. That would fund the computer science initiative for five years, but Hemingway has a bigger vision.

If we can bring in additional funding through industry or grants, we wouldn't necessarily have to use that fund," she said. "So the vision of the center is to allow that fund to last much longer than just five years."

Hemingway will have a similar presentation before JFAC next week.

If lawmakers approve funding for the center, it gives Idaho a shot at creating innovative education programs and develop next-gen businesses in the state.

A separate bill was introduced today to help with private funding. If passed, you could donate $2,000 to the STEM Action Center for a tax credit.