Letter to Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker; Kevin Mc Carthy, House Minority Leader; Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Majority Leader; and Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader - Representative TJ Cox Leads Letter Urging Congressional Leadership to Invest in Rural Stem Education


Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:

As we consider further legislation to mitigate the educational disruptions and long-term
economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in rural areas, we urge you to consider
a robust investment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) school

A robust investment in STEM education is needed to support the tens of millions of students and
teachers using distance learning. Furthermore, economic recovery will require significant
additional federal resources to put people back to work and lay the foundation for future growth
and prosperity. A robust investment in STEM education will create jobs and promote economic
development. We strongly recommend that any future emergency or recovery plan include
investment in STEM infrastructure for several reasons specific to this crisis, including:

● Distance learning: Better outfitting schools and communities with technology for STEM
teaching will help educators and students using distance learning now and during future
crises. Schools that operate without computers because they lack broadband or devices
are struggling with distance learning for lack of practice and equipment. Additionally, if a
school lacks broadband access, it is unlikely that the community it serves has access
either. The ability to provide live instruction and the success rate in communicating with
students remotely are negatively impacted with such technology gaps. The pandemic
exacerbates the inequities that already affect public school students from low-income
and/or rural backgrounds, to long-term detriment.1 Not only do they harm students, they
also strain STEM teachers facing the challenges and unfamiliar territory of online
teaching without adequate training resources, who already experience staffing shortages.
● Local jobs: If the economy continues its downward turn, and millions remain out of
work, infrastructure projects to improve or construct STEM labs and facilities will help
fill the need for local jobs. Investing in STEM teachers amplifies the effort to incubate local economies and prepare students for the workforce, as research shows they have key
roles to play in engaging students in science and supporting student outcomes.
● Relevant workforce preparation: This pandemic has exposed and worsened our
existing workforce gaps and created new ones. Healthcare is a growing career and
technical field. During this crisis, the need for a robust healthcare workforce pipeline --
not to mention scientists who are developing cures or engineers who are helping track
cases -- has been made clear. Schools could use funds to better outfit labs and learning
environments to prepare students for these professions, like nursing.
● Recovery for rural communities: It is critical to support our rural and underserved
minority communities during and after this crisis. Supporting the modernization,
renovation, or repair of rural and underserved areas' career and technical education
facilities will enable schools to better serve their students now and into the future. More
than ever, the need to remodel or build new facilities to provide STEM classrooms and
laboratories and support high-speed internet is apparent. Federal investment in education
infrastructure projects will provide a stopgap and stimulus as state and local budgets
recover from the pandemic.

There are also entrenched, pre-existing reasons why we need additional investment in our rural
schools, including workforce gaps and the needs of public schools. It is estimated that more than
one third of rural Americans have little or no access to the internet.2 On top of that, over the past
decade, the growth in jobs requiring science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills
was three times faster than growth in non-STEM jobs. A wide range of jobs across all sectors--
including manufacturing, agriculture, natural resources management, and health care--
increasingly call for significant STEM knowledge. However, there is a projected gap between
STEM jobs available and highly-skilled workers. The median age of United States schools is 65
years old, and we recognize that in order to provide an adequate STEM education, many of these
buildings will need investments and upgrades that include new technology, broadband access,
and laboratory spaces. Importantly, the condition of school facilities has a measurable effect on
student achievement. In the wake of the pandemic, lost taxes and revenue will force districts to
defer infrastructure improvements even further.

As you develop the next legislative package to support our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,
we call on you to include an investment in school infrastructure, especially broadband, which
supports learning in and out of the classroom. We look forward to working with you to put our
nation on a path to recovery and renewed prosperity.