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'Education Week' springs requests of STEM, education funding into legislature

KBOI - STEM Action Center fund

BOISE, Idaho (KBOI) -- It's Education Week at the Statehouse, which means schools from all over the state are asking for extra money from the legislature and the governor has asked for $10 million to go toward a STEM education fund.

The recently-created STEM Action Center is aimed at creating the workforce of the future.

The structure is in place now, but it still needs the funding to keep it going.

Otter has asked for $10 million to go toward ongoing funding of the STEM Action Center that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math in K-12 education.

"The goal of the STEM Action Center is to also bring industry to the table so that industry would have buy-in with us," said Angela Hemmingway, the Idaho STEM Action Center executive director. "I think this is one of the first times where we've had education, government and industry all working together in harmony...especially in relation to computer science."

The funding would allow the stem action center up to $2 million per year, and those in the technological industry could also donate. Supporters say it creates a mutually-beneficial relationship between students and the workforce.

"It's really about talent pipeline, and really being able to grow Idaho's economy in the right way with really good-paying positions that really help make a difference in solving national problems," said Amy Lientz, INL director of partnerships.

In a world where technology is booming, the president and CEO of Idaho Technology Council, Jay Larsen, says the supply doesn't meet the demand. That's where he says STEM can help bridge that gap.

"Our ability to help build that foundation and create that pipeline to our students from the K-12 system, and then into higher education, and as a career is vital to our success," Larsen said.

But funding may face some challenges. Co-chairs of the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC) say that the state recognizes the need for funding, but they still have a lot to consider.

"The good senator and I always have to take care of what is here now, before we do a build-out in any way," said Rep. Maxine Bell (R)-District 25. "And we have a tremendous obligation with other parts of the education budget."

"STEM is important, and its an important piece of our overall education picture," agreed Sen. Shawn Keough (R)-District 1. "We have to balance those things out."

Supporters say $10 million to fund the project could come from the state's economic growth over the last years.

We are looking into the outcome of the education budget and continuing coverage as soon as it becomes available.

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